Over the past few days, I’ve reached out to people in the NFL orbit—draftees, current players, a coach, a GM, a scout, the NFL administrator in charger of the Draftathon fundraiser, an ESPN analyst, a trainer to NFL players—to ask how their lives have changed in this unprecedented time, and where they are in life and livelihoods.
And I asked them to send me pictures.
A COVID-19 NFL gallery, April 2020:
Senior vice president of social responsibility, NFL
Living in Brooklyn (temporarily)
Isaacson runs the league’s “Draftathon,” the COVID-19 TV and web fundraiser on draft weekend.
“My husband is an orthopedic surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and Westchester. He’s doing virtual tele-health visits, working with families whose loved ones are being treated for COVID-19, and has different levels of exposure to the virus. We have a 4-year-old son, Theo. We made the decision three-plus weeks ago that my son and I would come to Brooklyn, where I grew up, to stay with my parents. My husband is staying in our apartment on the Upper West Side. I’ve been working full-time on draft, starting on calls and video conferences at 9:30 a.m., running maybe 10 hours, and then maybe more after Theo goes to bed, if I don’t pass out. Theo shows up on every call with the commissioner. He [Roger Goodell] just laughs and says, ‘How’s Theo today?’ He’s an active boy going through every symptom, every anxiety, full of confusion. It’s hard on Theo. He doesn’t really understand. Every day he says, ‘Text Daddy. Tell him to come and pick us up with the car.’ Being five months pregnant, I try to keep the stress down. But Brooklyn is so much of an epicenter.
“For me personally, from a social-responsibility perspective, this draft is so important. I feel such a responsibility at this time in our country to do this right. We do community events all the time, and they’re all important. But this one feels different. It feels weightier, heavier. This is our shot to unify people, to really help. I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it. We’ve got to get it right.”
2020 NFL Draft quarterback prospect, Oregon
Living in Eugene, Ore.
“I’m back in Eugene with all my family, my [two] brothers, my parents. It’s been cool to get to spend time with them. I throw with my brothers. I’ll throw five days a week. I usually have some meetings [virtually, with NFL teams]. I’ve gotten pretty good with the Zoom meetings, actually. I lift on the back porch. We were sent some dumbbells and some free weights, so we go back there and lift. I watch some film, go golfing when I can. A couple golf courses here are still open. We’ve done our best to monitor who we come in contact with.
“This is an exciting time, as tough as it may be with everything that’s going on. I think it would’ve been really, really cool to be at the draft and it would’ve been a really special moment to just be there in general. Instead of that, being in Eugene, I’ve always loved Eugene and being here is really special. I know that my family will be there. Whatever happens, happens. If you get too caught up in what you can’t control, it doesn’t turn out your way all the time.”
Living in Mansfield, Mass.
“I’ve used some of my time to work toward my Master’s in Business Administration at Indiana University. I’ve been studying for a midterm in financial management, re-watching some of the lectures. This is kind of fun—[former Patriots teammate] Joe Thuney is going for the same degree. We have lectures Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m., but they’re all recorded so you can go back and watch them any time. This is my second master’s. My first was in Recreation, Sports and Tourism, and when I finish this, I’ve got my next one planned at American Military University online. Astronomy. One of the great perks about being a player is you get $20,000 a year in education benefits, then more after you retire. It’s crazy: I’m going for six [Master’s degrees]. I got into Harvard to study literature, but that’s a pretty serious one. I’m going to save that for when I am done playing.
“I’ve been working out in the garage of one of my [former] Patriots teammates, Hjalte Froholdt. My wife and I are big Scrabble players, so we do some of that. Watch ‘The Office.’ Play Call of Duty. And I fixed a couple of holes in the drywall in our house. We’re in the same boat as everyone else.”
Draft analyst, ESPN
Living in Mullica Hill, N.J.
“Last year, we’re on the ESPN set in downtown Nashville, just to the right of the stage. Hundreds of thousands of people there. Absolutely electric—just like it’d have been this year in Vegas. Free-flowing, playing off one another’s comments. You could hear the excitement in our voices. Hyped up. Same way some players talk about needing and wanting and feeding off the crowd in games . . . you get a taste in a live draft setting. This year, I’ll be in my house in Jersey, in my office, with a camera and video return so I can see the telecast. Door shut. Just me in there. Quiet. Sterile. Talk about a 180 from what it would have been like in Vegas. Most of us will be working the draft in our own little silos.
“[Media-performance coach] Gerry Matalon used to say we had three jobs—to inform, to educate, and to entertain. The entertainment part’s really important this year. My hope would be we give the people, despite all the challenges we face globally, something they need in America right now. We’re all aware this has to be fun—and it will be.”
General manager, Chargers
Living in Newport Beach, Calif.
“It is surreal to be home. I’ve never been home this much in my life. My [three] kids are upstairs in their rooms, doing their school stuff from about 8 to 2:30 every day. We don’t have a basement, so I’m at the dining room table with a Surface, an iPad, a Mac, an XOS computer, working as usual. I’m like a lot of people these days—we don’t have a land-line in our house, so we’ve got to get one put in, at least as a backup right now, in case cell service goes down on draft weekend.
“We left our building the 17th of March. We’re trying to carry on as we normally would, but it’s been adjustment. I never even heard of Zoom until we had to start using it. A lot of time has been spent on, ‘How are we going to set up and run a draft, logistically, from my house?’ The challenge of it is kind of invigorating. They say it’s a virtual draft. I don’t really get that. Nothing fake about it. It’s the real deal for us.”
Living in Dallas
“My days are pretty much the same. My wife and I take care of our four girls under 5 at home. Usually it’s a tag team. My wife has the baby—she’s four months old—and I handle the other three. We have a pool, so I go swimming with them. They like soccer and basketball, so we play a lot of that.
“I work out with five guys, younger guys, and my trainer, Ronnie Braxton, at a field here, five days a week, from 11 till 1:30 or 2. In the past, we used to have 20, 25 guys in the workouts, but my trainer cut it down this year because of the virus. All the weight rooms here are shut down, so we’ve taken our weights out onto a football field and created this really spread-out weight area. It’s like one of those Field Day areas when you were a kid. We don’t come into contact because of the virus. We used to do 7-on-7s, but not this year due to the virus. I am cautious. I don’t touch my face. As soon as I get home, all my stuff goes right into the washer, and I don’t touch the girls, don’t touch anything.
“It’ll be a strange year, whatever happens. I was a rookie in the  lockout. The whole NFL was on hold, waiting for the CBA. My advice for guys is you better be in shape whenever camp starts. The teams that have been together, that didn’t have a lot of turnover, will have a big advantage.”
2020 NFL Draft linebacker prospect, Alabama
Living in Hyattsville, Md.
“I work out once or twice a day, talk to a bunch of teams, watch TV. Killing time. Same old same old. Today I went to get some food after my workout, and they were really paranoid there about how I ordered the food. I went to hand them the menu and they said, ‘Just put it down.’ Crazy. But I understand—being really careful with this virus.
“I’ve been mostly using Zoom to have meetings with some teams. Green Bay, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Tennessee, Detroit. That’s been completely weird. I talked to one team with my shirt off, looking kind of rough. I need a haircut. Today, I talked to coach [Matt] Patricia and the staff with the Lions. On those calls, we talk ball, their scheme, watch film, talk about my upbringing, my journey at Alabama, how I fit in their team, what I’m doing with my money to make sure I take care of it. We get to know each other a little bit. I want to make them feel comfortable with me as a person.
“The draft will be so different. Having a draft party taken away—you can’t truly cherish the moment like you wanted to growing up. Even after the draft, we have no idea when we’ll go to our team. You’re training, but for what? OTAs? Camp? The season? You try not to think about how long this will last.”
Southeast region scout, Rams
Living in Daphne, Ala.
“I was at the Clemson Pro Day [March 12], and it was a nervous time for a lot of the scouts. You’re thinking, ‘Is it best to be on the road right now?’ After that, I was driving to Georgia Southern for their Pro Day, and I was told we were coming off the road. I flew home from Atlanta, and I’ve been home since. We have draft meetings, and we all get on
Microsoft Teams, and each scout comes onto the screen to talk about his guys. Actually, some of what I’m doing is watching tape of next year’s class. We’re working ahead.
“What I like about this year is we’re concentrating on the player, on the basics of the player. We’ve been to the schools, we’ve watched him play, we’ve watched his tape. We know the player. Now we fall in love with the player, not the story. You know what I mean? These guys are so polished now that sometimes opinions get changed on guys based on interviews and things like that. This year, there’s not as much face-to-face, but to me, scouting comes down to tape.
“It’s a weird time, a scary situation. I try to filter it out. The show goes on.”
Living in northern Virginia
“Being a new head coach now, the last time I was in this position in Carolina was during the  lockout. So I didn’t get to meet my football team until the day we started training camp. This is not uncharted territory. We’re just waiting to see from the NFL and NFLPA when we can start this virtual coaching with our players in our off-season program. Because I was the first head coach hired this year, I was able to get my coaching staff hired, and get the playbook ready, so we were way ahead of the curve. We’ll have virtual meetings with our players and start our installation. What I’ve told our coaches, ‘Keep it simple. Stick to the core, stick to the meat. We’ve got to be really good at the simple things.’
“As far as the draft goes, one of the things we’ve said is at the very beginning of the clock, if we don’t have anything going, we’re not going to waste time. We’re moving on. This is going to test you, to find out just how good your basics are, how good your college scouting department is, how good you are as evaluators, determining whether or not the guy is going to fit you. It’s interesting. We’re kind of going back to the basics, the fundamentals of scouting and coaching.”
Strength and conditioning trainer
Living in Westlake Village, Calif.
Capretta, a former NFL strength-and-conditioning coach, runs athlete-training firm ProActive Sports Performance in southern California. Multiple trainers in ProActive work with 30 current NFL players and about 20 draft prospects—usually in person. But this spring, Aaron Rodgers, Derwin James, David Bakhtiari and Clay Matthews, among others, work with Capretta virtually.
“Normally we work with guys 1-on-1 or in small groups, but now we either send a guy a detailed program or work with him over FaceTime or Zoom. Today I did a Zoom workout with Derwin James. I was in my garage workout space, he was at his home. It lasts about an hour. We do what I call three rounds. Round one is to get the blood flowing, wake the body up. Round two is the meat of it, with high-intensity intervals and minimal rest. Then he chills out for a minute or two. Round three is the finisher. I zap him. Maybe a split-squat holding dumbells to the side, some high-knee jump-ropes. Then I might say, ‘Derwin, hit the hill.’ He’s got a hill behind his house, and he’ll go do two sprints up the hills, maybe eight seconds each, then come back. Then we’ll do a stability exercise and cool down.
“It works out great. Different guys work out differently. With Aaron, I send him a detailed program, and he’s good with doing it himself. David Bakhtiari, he has a program, but I’ll Zoom or Facetime him in. We do so many different things here. Clay Matthews has a beautiful home gym, so he works out there; he’s been with us for over a decade. We Zoom guys in, and do conditioning, strength, yoga and mobility work. Is it perfect? No. But it works. When you’re working out, you get into the zone, and it’s really not that big a difference. We can BS with guys over Zoom just like we’re there with them.”
Living in Newport Beach, Calif.
“I’ve got a 2-and-a-half-year-old son, and my wife Lindsey and I are expecting another boy in a month. We’re trying to be super-cautious. We decided to have a home birth, and that decision looks even better now. I probably wouldn’t be allowed in the delivery room in the hospital now. Being home so much, I’ve taken a deep dive into cooking. Made some pretty good pizza this week. And I’m with Jones, my son, most of the day. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for snails and playing with trucks . . . and reading up on potty-training. I know there’s chaos in different parts of the country right now, but there’s also a lot of goodness in society now, with things slowing down. People have hit the pause button. I see neighbors talking to neighbors.
“I’ve been doing FaceTime workouts with my trainer. I’m able to use kettle bells, TRX, the Keiser Functional Trainer and Pilates equipment.
“It’s a really unique time. It’s super weird. So many livelihoods—we’re all in a state of limbo. Still, I feel fortunate to be alive right now in this great country.”
Read the rest of Peter King’s FMIA column by clicking here