JACKSONVILLE – This isn't ideal.
Ideally, Joe Schobert would be in his new town with his new team learning a new defense and acclimating to be a leader – on and off the field – among new teammates.
In lieu of that, the Jaguars' new middle linebacker is working.
It's an odd way of working – but it's better than nothing.
"We have Zoom meetings, but it's not the same," Schobert said.
Schobert, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March from the Cleveland Browns, joined Jacksonville media on a videoconference Tuesday afternoon. He spoke of multiple topics, including working with former middle linebacker Myles Jack in what the team hopes is a revamped linebacker corps and defense.
He also extensively discussed what for NFL players and coaches are major changes in preparing for the coming season. The Jaguars' 2020 offseason program began last week. COVID-19 restrictions mandate that it's being held virtually – in the cloud and via videoconference.
And yeah … that's a different deal.
"We're going through our first install today," Schobert said, referring to the process of coaches "installing" offensive and defensive schemes – a key phase of any NFL offseason program. "I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what we tried to install today. But then usually you go on the field and you get to walk through it and you get to practice it.
"I can go in my backyard and I can go through steps, but I can't see the offense doing anything. I can't communicate to Myles next to me, or to the D-ends (defensive ends) to make some calls here and there to work through it. It's definitely going to be different. You just have to be really studious and pay attention in the virtual classroom way more.
"It's going to be a lot of watching film and putting yourself in the shoes of the guys who are in it."
Schobert said a virtual offseason day consists of a prerecorded meeting with a PowerPoint presentation and video cutups, followed by a Zoom meeting with the linebackers and position coach Mark Collins at 1:00 p.m. that includes film study.
"You can make some of the checks so you're kind of playing through a game over the film," Schobert said. "Then you talk about certain coaching points every play. Obviously if there's something big in the installation that's important to our position you go over that. Then, it's just watching a bunch of film and making the calls."
For Schobert, virtual videoing into a new culture and new career phase is the latest phase of decidedly busy offseason. His wife, Megan, gave birth to their first son, Simon, on March 13. Free agency began five days later, and Schobert agreed to terms with the Jaguars days after that.
Schobert on Tuesday described the whirlwind weeks since. Purchasing workout equipment and using it in his in-laws' basement in Wisconsin while his mother in-law teaches school virtually on the first floor. Working out in a nearby elementary school field and parking lot. Learning to parent all the while.
During that time Schobert drove from Wisconsin to Jacksonville with his father, moving out of his Cleveland apartment along the way and looking for houses – and finally undergoing and passing his Jaguars physical – in Jacksonville upon arrival. Virtual meetings with new teammates and coaches have entered equation in the last week and a half.
"I'm able to stay on top of my workouts pretty conveniently," Schobert said, adding with a smile: "I usually have to wait until the afternoon. We usually sleep in in the morning because we're waking up and falling asleep all the time in the middle of the night with the feedings and changing.
"After the meetings in the afternoon is usually kind of my free time. I go and get my workouts in and get back on the dad train, take care of the baby and all that."
While Schobert is learning a new defense in his virtual afternoons, so are his teammates. The Jaguars are expected to use elements of a 3-4 defense next season, having played primarily a 4-3 in base situations in past seasons. Schobert played 3-4 outside linebacker in college at Wisconsin but said Tuesday "once you've played for a while, the systems aren't dramatically different."
"It's just about learning where you're going to line up and the techniques – and the communication that will go on," he said. "Once you get that stuff down, it's really not that hard. Right now, I'm learning the verbiage and all the communication for the Jaguars' system.
"Once you get that stuff down, it's kind of just plug and play."
Schobert on Tuesday expressed excitement over playing with Jack and said Jack has expressed the same with him – and Schobert said he hopes his presence in the middle will help free Jack to make plays on the outside. But he said his focus is mostly on the big picture.
"I want to prove I can be part of winning franchise," Schobert said. "I want to be able to change the culture into a traditional winning culture, to be able to be a team that can go to the playoffs year after year and be one of the more successful teams in the AFC and competing for titles every year."