(CBSLA)- The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t cost the NFL games in the way that it has with other leagues, but it has still made for an interesting offseason.
The draft process, next week’s draft, and now organized team activities (OTAs) are being conducted virtually as team facilities remain closed for the foreseeable future. While it’s an inconvenience for draft prospects and teams to conduct the draft virtually, it seems the process has been able to survive.
The OTAs are a bit of a different story as usually they’re a time for teams with new coaches to begin working on teaching their schemes. For all teams, it’s an opportunity for training staffs to check in with players and see where they are in terms of staying in shape and being ready for the upcoming season. If OTAs and minicamps end up being canceled due to ongoing social distancing measures, it will be interesting to see the potential effects on the league season.
For former UCLA and current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Brett Hundley, he believes we may see a similar cause and effect to what we saw during the 2011 season following the lockout.
“If we don’t have OTAs, and we jump right into training camp, that’s going to be a huge difference. I was talking to our training staff to look at when the last lockout we had with the NFL and the statistics of that year compared to this year coming up,” said Hundley. “It would be interesting to see whether it’s better for player’s health or worse.”
The league missed OTAs and minicamps in that 2011 season and went straight to training camps. One thing that we saw initially in 2011 was a significant number of Achilles injuries in training camp that year. But, later in the year, an analysis done by Kevin Meers for the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective found that “neither the lockout nor recent rule changes and attention have had a significant effect on either the quantity or severity of injuries this NFL season.”
In Hundley’s opinion, OTAs being pushed back or canceled, thereby giving players more rest and off time, could be a good thing overall.
“It gives players more time, more break time, so with OTAs not starting necessarily right now it’s not bad,” said Hundley.
Though he does admit he believes OTAs are important for the younger players and guys just entering the league because it gets them acclimated to both the NFL level and the things they need to do in order to stay in shape. For Hundley personally, he says his training routine hasn’t been impacted much by the stay at home orders because his usual regimen is already pretty old school.
“I’ll run. I’ll do push ups and sit ups like I’ll go jogging in the morning I’ll do push ups and sit ups and I’ll do hot yoga, and that is literally my whole offseason,” said Hundley. “It just keeps me in shape, you know, like stretch my muscles play sports stuff so that by the time we hit OTAs, I’m ready to start doing weight training, my body’s ready to prepare for the weight load. It’s completely changed now because now you can’t even go to hot yoga places. So it’s really just changed up to more stretching, a lot of jogging and push ups and sit ups.”
That isn’t to say the coronavirus hasn’t impacted him. Hundley found himself in an uncertain situation at the beginning of the breakout as he was scheduled to fly to South Korea just as the country was beginning to experience its outbreak.
“I was on the way to the airport to catch my flight South Korea and it was morning time. And so I just got all these reports and the dang virus like tripled out there,” said Hundley. “I was supposed to be shooting with GoPro, obviously all that stuff got canceled because they were shutting down everything.”
“I continued with my travels, going to Bali, but then near the end of my trip I was in India and was again on my way to the airport to get on a flight to go to Spain or Barcelona,” said Hundley. “About two hours before I get on my flight, the report came out that the U.S. put the travel ban on Europe and it was supposed to start the next day. So I called my friend I was supposed to be meeting there and told him I’m just heading back to the States.”
Hundley says his friend got stuck in Spain for about three and a half weeks. Luckily, everybody is okay now, but it was a wild time. Now, back home in Arizona, he says his days are largely filled with morning workouts, the show “Snowfall” on Hulu and reading books or watching chapter summaries of books on YouTube. He’s currently working his way through the writing of Immanuel Kant after finishing C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves.
He re-signed with the Cardinals in free agency this offseason saying that it’s been good to be home near family and that he feels Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is a perfect fit. Last season, he had the opportunity to watch and mentor Kyler Murray in his rookie season and Hundley beleives that Murray’s success draws from staying true to who he is as a player.
“I think he just stuck to what he knew that got him there and I think a lot of the times, people come in are athletes, and they think they got to do like different things to get them, you know, because they’re at the NFL now they’re they’re playing with these guys,” said Hundley. “I think that paid dividends you know at first in the season it was trying to find his way through, but then once he got comfortable man like you know he just started having fun and playing. I think that’s the biggest thing for him is just doing it let’s do it and just having fun.”
As he looks ahead to this season, a new weapon has joined the roster with the Cardinals acquiring top receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. Thinking about what the offense will look like with Hopkins in the fold, Hundley has one word: scary.
“I think it’s going to be an awesome addition. Now you have Hopkins, Fitz (Larry Fitzgerald), C. (Christian) Kirk. Then Chase [Edmonds] in the backfield along with Kyler Murray,” said Hundley. “It’s going to be really, really difficult to scheme against this offense. Add in the scheme and concepts that Kingsbury comes up with, it’s going to be really, really cool.”