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Offseason Update: Virtual rookie minicamp a "challenge"

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone walks the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone walks the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars did a routine thing very "un-routinely" Friday.

That has become common this NFL offseason, with the Jaguars' latest unusual approach to a usual thing being Friday's opening of rookie "minicamp."

It's being conducted virtually – as is the case with all NFL offseason programs during the coronavirus pandemic. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said while the work has the same challenges as the rest of the offseason schedule, Friday's rookie minicamp "started off well."

"Everyone was there, and obviously on time," Marrone said.

Marrone, speaking to the media early Friday afternoon via videoconference, discussed multiple topics – including Friday's signing of veteran quarterback Mike Glennon. With rookie minicamp starting, he talked about that extensively – and said his message to the 30 rookies was three-pronged:

*Be on time.

*Be prepared.


"I talked to them about first impressions, and how important they are," Marrone said.

The Jaguars selected 12 players in last month's 2020 NFL Draft, including first-round cornerback CJ Henderson and first-round defensive end/linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson. The team agreed to terms with 18 collegiate free agents shortly thereafter. In a normal NFL offseason, those players would have participated in a three-day rookie minicamp at TIAA Bank Field.

With COVID-19 restrictions closing NFL facilities around the nation, NFL teams have held their normal offseason programs virtually – with coaches uploading offensive and defensive meetings into the cloud for players to study and meeting with players via video conference.

The three-day minicamp is being held in the same fashion – with similar challenges.

"It's a little different," Marrone said. "We're in this new system here of virtual meetings. How are you going to be able to make an impression during this time of year?"

Marrone added, "It does create a challenge for you. It's something everyone's dealing with."

Marrone said Friday began with a team meeting followed by a special teams meeting. He spoke to the media during a break, then the plan was to hold positional meetings in the early afternoon followed by individual meetings.

Players also were to meet with Jaguars director of player development Marcus Pollard, with the schedule essentially the same through next week.

"It will be difficult," Marrone said of trying to evaluate rookies without on-field work and face-to-face interaction. "I'm still trying to work it out in my mind. A lot of times when guys walk into a building and walk into meetings, you watch them prep. You're able to see what they do in those situations. You see how they interact in the locker room, and how they interact with other people in the building. I talked to the guys today about, 'You're being evaluated all the time … how you treat people, how you talk to people.'''

Marrone said the lack of such moments makes the process tricky.

"There's not a lot of that now," Marrone said. "You're a little behind in what you want to do there. That's why I talked about how they prepare in these meetings, how they ask questions, how they communicate, what they do on their own. That's going to be a big thing with these impressions.

"A lot of times when you have them now, you're able to get them on the field and watch a progression of them learning, them taking things out from the classroom to the field and performing. The coachability aspect of it is a big thing whereas now it's more questions and answers and not really body movement."

Marrone said the situation likely will make training camp in late July and August significantly more important.

"You can't judge too early," he said. "It's a fluid-type process, and you're just hoping everything kind of falls into your favor when you're making sure who makes the roster and you're not basing it on, 'Well, I think he may be able to do this.'''

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