The Raiders should be entering their offseason program’s second week. The first phase was set to start April 20, a period devoted to strength and conditioning at the team’s training facility, interspersed by meetings teaching scheme. Then comes on-field work with OTAs in May and June and a mandatory minicamp to cap this annual preparatory period.
It’s probable the routine’s abandoned completely this year, with team facilities shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
But that doesn’t mean the Raiders will sit around post-NFL draft, twiddling thumbs.
They’re doing what we’re all attempting during this public health crisis, trying to make the best of a difficult situation. That includes maximizing technology that allows us to work both remotely and together.
The Raiders will start the first day of a new type of school Monday with a virtual offseason program using video conferencing to host positional and team meetings to teach schemes and roles within them.
The Raiders aren’t among the few teams conducting virtual workouts, offering guidelines while trusting players will do what’s required to stay in shape.
General manager Mike Mayock believes these virtual meetings will remain productive without the typical offseason program. His confidence is derived from how detailed the Raiders were during pre-draft Zoom meetings with prospects. It’s not just conversations. Coaches can share screens and video with players in a conference and get detailed with their instruction despite lacking typical teaching tools.
“The one thing I learned over last month or six weeks or whatever it's been, I couldn't believe how creative our coaches got with our Zoom presentations to the college players,” Mayock said. “I guarantee you they bring the same creativity to our Raider players as we go through the virtual. It' s going to be learning more than anything. I know our coaches have put in a lot of time and effort. It's not unlike the kindergarten teachers and the third-grade teachers and everyone around the country trying to put their best foot forward to teach people from home. That's what I stress with all the veterans I talk to and every single rookie we drafted.”
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The Raiders' new rookie class, with seven NFL draft picks and seven undrafted free agents (to this point), won’t start the offseason program Monday with veteran teammates. They’ll join in following a May rookie minicamp, another virtual seminar learning Raiders play-calling terminology, coaching methods and basic life skills for an NFL player.
“Once we could get them integrated into our virtual program, we expect 100 percent attention,” Mayock said. “They better be ready to hit the ground running whenever we're allowed to.”
It’s uncertain when teams will be allowed to apply and execute all they’ve learned in these video conference sessions. The NFL will relax restrictions universally to avoid certain teams gaining an advantage over states opening back up earlier than others.
That also makes possible, though ultimately uncertain, that the team won’t practice at their Alameda training complex ever again. Their new facility in Henderson, Nev. is set for a June completion –- construction is considered an essential business and remains ongoing –- preparing for the Raiders move to Las Vegas permanently in the coming months.
The Raiders were set to run their offseason program in Alameda, with the possibility of a minicamp run in Henderson to formally open the new facility. The Raiders still are scheduled to conduct training camp in Napa and play home preseason games at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Time will tell how that all pans out as the Raiders and the NFL move into a unique period of offseason preparation hoping training camp and the regular season will start on schedule.