Coaches use tools available, as Taylor figures out pre-draft routine

Under normal circumstances, the NFL offseason workout program would have begun this past week for teams with a new head coach. The coronavirus pandemic delayed that, and the Cincinnati Bengals are expecting their scheduled start date of April 20 to be pushed back as well.

NFL coaches aren’t even allowed to communicate with players via videoconferencing, at least for the time being, so second-year Bengals coach Zac Taylor has little idea what his offseason program will look like at this point.

In the meantime, Taylor has become a master of Zoom conference calls as it appears likely that will be the only way he can meet with the team for a while, whenever that is allowed. He uses Zoom for staff meetings currently and held his first news conference on that platform Wednesday.

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“We’re all very flexible and able to adapt to whatever the situation is, so, we can’t let something like this get us down or make us frustrated,” Taylor said. “Everybody is dealing with the same issues right now, so we’re just looking for ways to attack it and make it useful for us so that when we can interact with our players, we’re able to hit the ground running and maximize our ability to use this technology that they’ve given us.”

Taylor isn’t sure what a 100-person Zoom meeting will look like with the whole team involved if it comes to that, but he said he would try to make it as much like a normal classroom session at Paul Brown Stadium as possible. Players and coaches likely won’t be able to see everyone’s face on the call, and it would need to be brief, but anything would be better than nothing.

The NFL will allow coaches to pre-record things the players can study on their iPads when the time comes for them to start the offseason program, so that should help as well, but nothing can replace on-field time together. Taylor remains optimistic, regardless.

“There’s a lot of different ways you can attack it,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to be creative with it. I’m looking forward to seeing how that unfolds for us. We talk about it on daily basis with our coaching staff, what the best ideas are to make sure we get the most out of what looks to be a virtual offseason for the most part.”

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The uncertainty doesn’t just involve the offseason workout program. There also are questions as to whether training camp and the season could be delayed, which has led to some changes in thinking as it relates to quarterback Andy Dalton.

Cincinnati was open to trade offers, but a plethora of quarterbacks went on the free agent market and perhaps muddied the waters a bit, and now the Bengals might have more need for a veteran quarterback if a rookie won’t have as much time to acclimate.

“I think it’s important for us to take it week to week, because everything seems to be changing weekly,” Taylor said. “When we say we’re keeping all of our options on the table, that’s one of the options you keep on the table for those very reasons. And so again, we’re in a position right now where Andy’s under contract. We just want to make sure we’re making the best decisions for the club.”

Those decisions are now all being made remotely as everyone works from home.

For Taylor, that means relying on his wife, Sarah, to keep the kids occupied so he can jump on conference calls and get his usual work done. He stays in his home office uninterrupted for the most part, but admittedly is enjoying the chance to join them for lunch and short breaks.

It was an adjustment at first to get his hours to match up with the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift he normally would be putting in at the stadium; however, now he’s gotten into a rhythm. The strangest part has been not doing any travel, which he usually does a lot of this time of year.

“Once you hit your routine, I feel great about it,” Taylor said. “I lock the door. No one is really going to hear me; they know not to bother me over the course of the day. But at the same time it’s good. You get to go down there and eat lunch with the family. Take a five or 10-minute break in the morning and the afternoon and they get a chance to see you.

“It’s not the end of the world if a kid does come up here when Sarah needs help for a couple of minutes. Nothing wrong with dropping everything to help. That has been fun. You take advantage of being around the family; they’re just one floor below me. Why not go see them more than I normally would and still get all your work done? We’re in a pretty good routine of what they day to day looks like. I feel like we got a lot accomplished.”

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