NFL rookies in 2020 have been part of the most unusual offseason in recent history.
J.J. Watt recently recalled his 2011 rookie season when a league-wide lockout resulted in cancelled organized team activities (OTAs) and a delayed start to training camp due to a 161-day work stoppage.
"Having gone through this type of offseason in 2011 where there were no OTA's, no minicamps, stuff like that, I do have a little bit of experience to lean on there," Watt said on May 27 via Zoom. "The thing that I've said is as long as you're training and doing what you need to do from a training standpoint, a running standpoint, getting yourself into the physical shape necessary for training camp, you'll be able to hit the ground running once training camp starts."
Rookies began reporting for training camp across the league, but start dates for training camp are still being finalized along with testing guidelines among a myriad of other logistics in maintaining a safe working environment for players, coaches and staff.
With COVID-19 cancelling an entire offseason of on-field drills and in-person meetings, players have had to rely on their own training and Zoom calls in 2020. In 2011, there were no team meetings, either in-person or virtually, but players were free to practice and train in large groups away from team facilities.
"This situation we actually have a little bit more of an advantage in that we have the Zoom meetings, we can go over the defense with the coaching staff," Watt said. "They can implement it and we can all talk to each other through that. So that is an advantage, but on the flip side of that, the disadvantage is it's hard for guys – in 2011 we could kind of meet as position groups or as an offense or defense, you could learn the plays and go over them and practice them together."
Now while the NFL and the NFLPA come to terms on what football in 2020 looks like, it appears that all players will be rookies when it comes to playing in a pandemic.