NFL offseason workouts are crash courses designed to get both young and veteran players up to speed quickly before the preseason and regular season begins.
But the coronavirus pandemic has put a wrench in those plans this year, preventing Washington Redskins rookies such as center Keith Ismael and tackle Saahdiq Charles from competing in the rookie minicamp or offseason training workouts.
However, Ismael is not making excuses during this unique situation. He has been working with his coaches through virtual networking programs such as Zoom while getting up to speed during these uncertain times.
“I think just not taking things for granted,” Ismael said about dealing with not being able to practice during the pandemic and taking advantage of his opportunity. “So many things that we are used to, used to be normal in our daily lives we take for granted. And not being able to go outside and interact with people and especially this, we can’t even be in the facility and grow with our own team you know, that’s tough.
“It’s taking a team effort by everybody in the building, everybody in the organization to continue with this offseason program and to build with the coaches, especially with the new staff,” he said.
The pandemic is also affecting the veterans on the team, such as future Hall of fFme running back Adrian Peterson and former University of Alabama linebacker Johnathan Allen.
Despite these challenges, Peterson is also working hard to get his body right and buy into the vision and leadership of new head coach Ron Rivera.
“It’s the man that’s leading … you lead by example. Thus far, obviously, we’ve all had our opportunities to talk to Coach Ron, and during our team meetings, we have the opportunity just to listen to what he has to say,” Peterson said.
“When a person talks, you can sense what they’re about,” he said. “So, just strictly off that, we have a good understanding that ‘hey, it’s going to be a change, it’s going to be different.’ Obviously, it’s hard to get that true feel of how things are going to be when you haven’t had the opportunity to be inside and be in the building, and going to meetings, and going to practice and just seeing and feeling the flow of everything so, it’s hard to establish that when we’re all at home.”
For Allen, the pandemic has served as a learning period as he attempts to decipher all of the nuances in new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s 4-3 scheme.
“It’s definitely weird,” Allen said. “I feel like the best thing is, since we are a new team, is it is a whole new playbook for everybody. So, the biggest thing that I’ve been able to take away from it is just getting used to the playbook, getting used to the new terminology.”
Even though life can be monotonous at times during the pandemic, Allen is still making sure that he is ready to go physically when his number is called.
“I’ve been trying to do anything just to stay active and stay fit,” he said. “I mean, I work out every day, but it gets pretty boring because usually, I mean, I get done with workouts by 12 o’clock, and we have meetings from 12-2, so from 2 o’clock on, I’m literally doing nothing. Just trying to do something to get out of the house and keep my mind sharp and not get so bored because there’s really nothing to do out here.”
Though Redskins players won’t be able to build chemistry on the field yet, they have put in the work mentally, going over the X’s and O’s while individually staying in shape.
Once play resumes, Ismael and Charles will have an opportunity to compete for starting roles on the offensive line, Peterson is vying to be the starting running back in a loaded backfield, and the team picked up Allen’s fifth-year option on his contract this offseason.