One of the major benefits of playing a full season pretty much on schedule during a pandemic is what the NFL learned technologically from 2020.
Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league has found new avenues of communication that will be common in future seasons.
“Virtual meetings have now become standard in the NFL; we are not going to have as much (in-person) meetings when we get back,” Goodell said Wednesday at the NFL Women's Careers in Football Forum. “I think technology is something we have embraced and will make us better.”
The previous standard before the COVID-19 pandemic was hour upon hour of meetings at team facilities, whether involving the entire roster in an auditorium or breaking into smaller groups on offense, defense, special teams or by specific positions. While in-person gatherings won't entirely disappear, the NFL found the ability to meet virtually is a positive development.
“We got together as a coaching team,” said Callie Brownson, Cleveland's chief of staff, “and our coaches said we got better at teaching because we had to find a way to get better. The eagerness to adapt and learn and change is such a valuable commodity as a coach.”
Brownson became the first woman to handle NFL in-game sideline coaching duties last season.
At a time when so many other sports endured massive delays and restructured schedules because of the pandemic, the NFL made it to the finish line without any major disruptions, largely by embracing technology. The league in essence used the draft last April as a proving ground, and when that worked so well — Goodell even was widely praised for his emcee role — being remote was not a hindrance during offseason programs and onward.
“The draft is an example” of the effectiveness of the technology the NFL used, Goodell noted. "When I told the teams what we were planning to do, to say there was outcry would be an understatement. That had not been done before.
"They had to adapt, to use technology properly.
"It also gave us a chance to go inside people’s homes. The number of notes I got about being at home with their families and having them experience it (with the players). ... And there was not one complaint from a club, which is almost impossible to do. They didn’t feel they were unprepared for the draft."
From there, it was full speed on all levels, from Zoom meetings and texting to the creation of workout programs and, once the season began, putting together game plans.
Browns co-owner Dee Haslam said the team has used virtual town halls to coordinate efforts between the business and football sides of the organization.
“One of the things we talked about throughout the last year was how do we learn from what we are going through?” Goodell said. “What are we going to take forward? It also gave us opportunities to find new ways of doing things that actually are quite popular.”
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