Falcons to conduct virtual offseason study program

Video: Falcons coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff share their thoughts on first-round pick A.J. Terrell. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Normally, the Falcons would be getting ready to host rookie minicamp with all of the new draft picks, the undrafted rookie free agents and a select group of players in for a tryout.

But for Falcons coach Dan Quinn, these are not normal times, as the coronavirus pandemic has most of the country social distancing and sheltering in place.

Until things change, Quinn plans to continue virtually meeting with the team en masse and in group sessions to help indoctrinate them as to how the Falcons plan to play if or when there is a 2020 NFL season.

He has talked to college professors and has worked on teaching in the virtual classroom. He’s planning different modules and sessions for coaches, individual players and position groups.

The Falcons plan to meet the players where they are. Quinn, sounding like a professor with a Ph.D., has a plan. He calls it a “customized individual learning” program.

“Sure, I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Quinn said. “There’s one, a lot of customized teaching that goes on, one-on-one or one-on-some as I call it, maybe one-on-two or -three.”

The Falcons kicked off their virtual program April 20 with a massive virtual meeting.

“So, in this kind of format, where it’s Microsoft Teams, we like to be three or less, that way there’s nobody that’s not on camera and being engaged,” Quinn said.

Players better not try to turn off the camera and hide behind their digital icon. Quinn wants to see their real faces. (He jokingly fined media members for not turning their cameras on during pre-draft media sessions.)

“We share our screens,” Quinn said. “We know video. We share our screens to do playbook diagrams. We also use other platforms like Zoom where if you had six or eight people and you wanted to see everybody’s face to have a discussion on things, we do that.”

Quinn has gotten elaborate with his meetings.

“We include voice-overs; hey, I’ll send you something tonight, these are the three things we’ll talk about after you watch it that we can go through tomorrow,” Quinn said. “So, we’re just trying as many ways as we can to go through it, and then we go through a lot of feedback.”

Normally, the team would have position meetings in the classrooms at team headquarters in Flowery Branch before gathering for full team meetings and then sprint to the field for practice.

With no field work for the foreseeable future, the Falcons plan to double-down on virtually learning.

“We ask what the players benefited from, and we also do that as a staff,” Quinn said. “What worked well? What didn’t? What can we do more of? We’re constantly trying to challenge the guys.”

Physically, the players will be counted on to be professionals and handle their own workouts.

“We’ll do all of the classroom and teaching sessions for them, but not from a virtual workout where we’re putting a monitor to check in on a player to that space,” Quinn said. “Obviously, conversations with the players. Hopefully over the next weeks to come we’ll have some workouts together, but that’s not part of our offseason program together virtually.”

The early results are promising, he said.

“We’re off to a good start on that, and there’s nothing like being on the field,” Quinn said. “I would say one of my biggest concerns is that we don’t get on the field together and have that type of communication, and there’s no way to do that now, but it doesn't mean you’re not going to dig in to try and find an edge to find it.”

Quinn and the front office gained confidence from how smoothly the virtual draft went.

“The only glitches were honestly what we’ve all done here; every once in a while you forget to unmute or mute,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Dan and I had a pact going (in), of course with Arthur (Blank) and Rich (McKay) and the kids that were around, that we made sure that we checked each other. If someone wasn’t muted, we were quick to jump in and remind each other that we need to mute.”

Quinn plans to stay this course until the nation is in a better place with the many health issues of the pandemic.

“It’s been a good start,” Quinn said. “Over the last month, I’ve learned a lot on technology. I love teaching, so finding new ways to connect with the guys, new exercises, new ways to do things, it’s been a challenge, but one that’s been fun.”

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