Last offseason, the Ravens rebuilt their offensive playbook from scratch. This year, they're rebuilding it with social distancing.
It's part of the new reality created by the coronavirus pandemic, but the coaching staff is not being deterred by the unique circumstances.
The Ravens are in a stronger position than most teams to prepare their offensive and defensive playbooks for 2020, coming off a 14-2 season and returning the entire coaching staff. This isn't like last year, when Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was redesigning the playbook in preparation for Lamar Jackson's first full season as the starting quarterback. Or two years ago when Wink Martindale was charged with building a new defensive system.
The Ravens' playbook is being readjusted, but it's not being rebuilt. Head Coach John Harbaugh is pleased with how the process has progressed.
"Our playbook is pretty much built," Harbaugh said. "We've been doing that virtually over the last couple months.
"It's complete in the sense that we have it ready for the offseason program, so we normally send our playbooks out to our guys right about now. They want to start studying them as they prepare for the offseason, so we'll send them out."
Now the question is how safe the entire process has been and will be. Harbaugh said the cyber security of virtual meetings is a "big concern" of his. He has been forwarding stories he reads about the issues Zoom has been having to the Ravens' IT professionals, and been assured that the Ravens are "doing everything humanly possible" to make sure the information shared is private.
"I've got some real concerns about that, and hopefully we'll be okay. It's kind of like that," Harbaugh said. "We'll see what happens. I really wouldn't want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings. That would be preferable, if we can stay away from that."
The Ravens have some new players who want to familiarize themselves with the team's schemes, like defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. Harbaugh said Wolfe has been particularly antsy to get the playbook in his hands.
"I mean, Derek Wolfe has been on me like a fly on something," Harbaugh said. "He wants that iPad right now so he can start studying the new defense."
Adjusting the playbook is a process that takes place year-round, and tweaks are made during the season. However, the biggest adjustments to the playbook take place during the offseason. Coaches have more time to evaluate changes they want to make, and players have more time to absorb new plays or terminology. With coaches not allowed to work in the building together during the pandemic, Harbaugh joked about missing some of the face-to-face brainstorming sessions with his staff.
"I think our assistant coaches are kind of happy, because I'm not walking into their office three times a day with ideas and making them re-draw stuff and change wording," Harbaugh said. "Or coming up with some half-baked idea that they've got to sift out, sort out and figure out if it makes any sense."
Even when the playbook is finished, nobody knows when players will be allowed to return to the field. The normal schedule for offseason activities will obviously be adjusted, but Harbaugh says the Ravens will be ready for on-field work with the time comes.
"We'll just kind of play it by ear, but I'm hopeful we'll have an offseason program," Harbaugh said. "I'm thinking we might. It just depends on the trajectory of this situation with the coronavirus and whether socially we're allowed to get back together. I think the league would like to get us back together, but they're not going to do anything that's going to put anybody in jeopardy. So, we're going to be ready for any contingency."
For now, Harbaugh is figuring out how he will hold virtual strength sessions, virtual conditioning, virtual team meetings, etc.