Each NFL team is being tasked with navigating their offseason programs virtually, which means players will not have the ability to practice with their teammates. So how does a team prepare to produce at a high level with a key part of that preparation absent?
Well, for the Rams, they can draw from their own roster for their answer.
Around this time a year ago, wide receiver Cooper Kupp was rehabbing a season-ending torn ACL from November 2018, preventing him from being able to be on the field with his teammates during organized team activities. The hard work paid off, though, in the form of his first 1,000-yard receiving season last season.
Although Kupp admitted he wouldn't choose to go about things that way if he had the option, he can serve as an example in these circumstances.
"I obviously wouldn't choose to go about doing things that way," Kupp said, reflecting on last year's offseason and applying it this year. "I would love to be able to get up there with the guys, be able to meet, go through this stuff together to collaborate offensively, especially. But there is an element that you can only do so much now together."
From Kupp's perspective, communication outside of the offense's virtual meetings becomes premium. It's also on each player to hold themselves accountable and responsible for their own improvement, so that when they do reconvene, there isn't a drop-off because someone is unprepared.
The former Eastern Washington standout accomplished both last year in two ways.
First, in a 2019 episode of Behind The Grind, he said within three weeks of the injury he asked Senior Director of Sports Medicine and Performance Reggie Scott if he could do high intensity interval training because he felt like the hormones that type of training released would help speed up his recovery.
Second, as he progressed, he came up with creative solutions to remain involved such as participating in 11-on-11 jog-thrus – team drills in which the players aren't going full speed – in June. In more typical procedures, he also worked with trainers off to the side and did individual drills with the quarterbacks.
Obviously, how players do their part in a virtual offseason will look different.
Essential medical personnel and players with rehab needs will still have access to the facility, but players are on their own when it comes to solving for ways to get the reps in that would otherwise be afforded through on-field work like jog-thrus.
"I played catch with my wife a little bit," Kupp said. "She's got a pretty good arm, but she's a lefty so the ball's spinning in the opposite direction. Working on getting a JUGS machine and figuring out what we can do there to supplement that side of things."
Kupp understands he doesn't know what things will look like a month from now. However, he goes back to a mindset that served him well last year as he came back from injury.
"I really try to take it one day at a time and continue to just handle what I can handle, control what I can control," Kupp said. "Really just trusting that things are going to come together."