Frank Reich comes off as an earnest thinker as he keeps the hand he has been dealt for NFL poker close to the chest.
The Indianapolis Colts coach pleasantly allows the peeks he wishes to reveal about his team but gives the impression he would not hesitate to slap fingers snaking into the private stash of the cookie jar if someone was more audacious.
Reich, 58, in his third year as leader of the team with a mark of 18-16, including playoffs, and like the rest of America pretty much is trapped between a hurricane and a typhoon, buffeted on all sides by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It appears he is living life at the mercy of Zoom. Twice in recent weeks, Reich has Zoomed with the media. More often, he has Zoomed with players and coaches. He joked he upgraded decorations in his living room to provide a more entertaining background for those viewing him at home.
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Compared to baseball, basketball and hockey, the NFL, football and Colts have been less affected by the coronavirus.
No games have been missed. Free agency produced fresh deals. The annual draft was toned down, and the Colts have kept busy inking new faces.
The inconvenience level has been lower for football, even if juggling a Zoom connection with 90 people linking can be a challenge.
Injured players are now rehabbing in team facilities. Players are still working out on their own but are in touch with coaches.
"We’re getting a ton done," Reich said of the Colts organization. "It isn’t, ‘Hey, I’m watching you.’ It’s, ‘I’m interested in you.’"
The National Football League released a full regular-season schedule, starting Sept. 13, plus four earlier exhibitions.
Given so many variables surrounding the virus, some might call that optimistic planning.
The NBA and the National Hockey League have yet to complete their 2019-20 seasons with playoffs and the crowning of a champion still dangling. Major League Baseball did not make it to opening day.
Could the NFL season be reduced to 12 games instead of 16?
"We are hopeful and optimistic that we will have a full season together," Reich said. "So our mindset is just to continue this preparation with the hopes we can start training camp on time and that the season would start on time."
Some veteran players might not mind extra rest time. Some draft picks, free agents or young players might want as much training camp as possible. Those who improved from last season and those whose raw abilities have been held in check by lack of experience might miss chances to show off with coaches’ eyes on them up close.
It may be harder for a guy to play his way onto the team.
"That’s part of the equation, and that’s not ideal," Reich said. "You’ve got to make your bones on the field."
The Colts are counting on Philip Rivers to do so at quarterback after signing him to a one-year $25 million deal. Much has been made about Reich-Rivers overlapping with the Chargers and sharing chemistry.
This duo is supposed to lead Indianapolis back into the playoffs, but Rivers has to devour the playbook, get used to throwing to a fresh corps of receivers and get the feel for the landscape, comfort slowed due to the virus.
Reich expects Rivers to move to Indianapolis and spend considerable time throwing to receivers in get-to-know-you sessions.
"It won’t be our field, but he’ll get together with receivers," Reich said.
In 13 years as a pro backup quarterback and 10 more years as an NFL coach prior to taking over the Colts, Reich likely thought he experienced everything. But the pandemic is unprecedented.
He and assistant coaches send players a drill of the day. If you want to impress the teacher, Reich essentially said, "Tell your girlfriend, your wife or your friend to video you doing the drill, getting a few reps in and send it to your position coach. We will critique it. We will coach you."
Can secondhand-filmed video help someone make the 53-man roster?
"That is not near the same," Reich said of comparing eyes-on, in-person evaluation, "but it is one little step we can do."
A player has to hope he doesn’t get cut from his dream job because the camera was shaky in his girlfriend’s hand.