Peter King: A peek at Seattle’s virtual OTAs

Here’s a look at one of the Seahawks’ virtual offseason meetings, courtesy of Peter King.

This spring, the NFL allows two hours of classroom work virtually for veteran players four days per week. The Seahawks as a team meet from 10 a.m. to noon PT four days a week, usually starting with a short team meeting and breaking down into smaller groups—the offense for some play installations, then maybe just the quarterback, tight ends and receivers, and then the tight ends, via video conference. The two-hour session is tightly controlled by director of team operations Matt Capurro, who flashes “time remaining” alerts on the screen as the last half-hour of the session winds down.

Virtual TE meeting
(Clockwise from top left) passing game coordinator Dave Canales, Greg Olsen, TE coach Pat McPherson, Will Dissly, Luke Willson, Jacob Hollister, Justin Johnson.

The scene: Seattle’s tight-end room, with two coaches and five veterans, stretches over three time zones and five states, connected by Zoom videoconference.

The coach: Pat McPherson, 51, entering his 23rd year as an NFL assistant and 11th in Seattle. He’s bright and cheery and tries to be imaginative so his players don’t get bored in this weird year of learning virtually. One recent day last week, McPherson, at his home, set out scrimmage props in the yard, intending to show via iPad camera the way he wanted his guys to take certain steps off the line of scrimmage. Then rain moved in, and he had to run out to bring the props inside … and a few minutes later it stopped, so he moved the teaching back outside. All the while, he had to watch the clock, because teams cannot go over the two-hour daily “classroom” limit with veterans.

McPherson said, “It’s pretty crazy to be coaching boxes on a screen. But we’re making it work. We try to keep it interesting. The other day, Pete (Carroll) started the meeting by calling on two veterans, Duane Brown and Bobby Wagner, and asking them what they’re learning from the Jordan documentary. Everybody’s watching it. A guy like Pete, he uses everything as a learning and teaching tool. This was right up Bobby’s alley: He said it was interesting to watch how Jordan developed not only as a player but a leader. That’s something a guy like Bobby, a true leader, would get a lot out of.”

In one session with all offensive personnel, quarterback Russell Wilson’s box on Zoom was highlighted, and he demonstrated his non-verbal signals and gyrations. Obviously, it’d be better to have Wilson standing in front of the offense in the same room, but the same message gets across on Zoom.

The teaching doesn’t stop at the end of those two hours. McPherson works with his four rookies in individual Zoom sessions: draft picks Colby Parkinson, connecting from northern California and Stephen Sullivan, from Baton Rouge, La.; and undrafted tight ends Tyler Mabry (Bradenton, Fla.) and Dominick Wood-Anderson (San Diego).

Greg Olsen: “I was really looking forward to the offseason, getting familiar with culture and flow and the people. When you’re in one place for so long, you take for granted the equipment guy, the security guy, the inside jokes. Now, like the new kid at school, you get the new locker, and the new class—and you can’t go into the school yet. But obviously, the circumstances are out of my control. I’ve gotten to do a lot with Russell and the receivers in [Zoom] sessions on our own, which has been really helpful.”

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