Christian McCaffrey training with brothers, working to become more complete receiver

Christian McCaffrey catch

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced players to adapt and adjust their training methods since their usual gyms have been shut down.

But for workout fiend Christian McCaffrey, finding an alternative method has provided a unique opportunity to reconnect with family.

McCaffrey has been staying at his parents' house in Colorado with his younger brothers, Dylan and Luke. Both are currently college quarterbacks — Dylan at Michigan and Luke at Nebraska. And being in the age of social distancing means that the three of them pretty much exclusively get to work out together.

"I think when you look at how tragic everything in the world is going on right now, you try to look at the positives," Christian said Tuesday. "I don't know if there would ever be another opportunity where all of us could be under the same roof again — getting a little older and coming into our own. It's a blessing in disguise being able to be with them and work out with them and throw with them. So we've been having a lot of fun."

According to the elder McCaffrey, there hasn't been much of a competitive aspect between the trio. And while he's turned into one of the more dynamic players in the NFL in just three seasons, Christian hasn't been dispensing advice left and right.

"They're very mature for their age, so I kind of just let them go as they do, and I learn a lot from them," he said. "Obviously, we play different positions, so for me, it's just learning and growing. They might give me some information that I may not know and vice versa."

While this was supposed to be the third week of the Panthers' offseason program, McCaffrey has tried to retain a sense of normalcy. He's still waking up and getting in an on-field workout — sometimes throwing with his brothers, sometimes just speed work — before the Panthers virtual meetings begin. Then, he'll get a lift in.

"My training schedule really hasn't changed at all. I still am able to do everything I would be doing regardless, which is nice," McCaffrey said. "It's convenient I get to throw with them and have a weight room at the house, so I get to do all of my strength exercises."

And after leading the league with 403 touches in 2019 — Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott was No. 2 at 355 — keeping the same routine is critical to McCaffrey. 

"I don't think there's a day that I ever take off when it comes to doing something in that field," he said. "I've learned to love it and enjoy it. And I think there's not a whole lot of jobs in the world where you get to just take care of your body and work out for a living and then go play football on Sundays."

Because McCaffrey is the only player to record 2,500 yards rushing and receiving in his first three seasons, it's tough to think of what he can do that much better in 2020. But as he's studied film of last season, he's found plenty of plays he wants back. 

"I'm constantly trying to work to get better — and that's such a broad statement, but I definitely specify it day to day in what I'm focusing on," McCaffrey said, noting his goal of trying to be as complete a player as possible.

To that end, McCaffrey hopes to improve not only as a traditional running back but also as a wide receiver — being able to run a full route tree. 

"I'll go through cycles of working on patience on my inside zone tracks. I'll work on routes of 15 yards and more from the Z receiver spot, or from the F receiver spot," McCaffrey said. "I think with a new offense as well, really understanding the dynamics of the playbook is extremely important right now. So that's kind of my main focus."

Since receiving the playbook last week, McCaffrey has, not surprisingly, begun to immerse himself in new offensive coordinator Joe Brady's scheme. And in studying those Xs and Os, McCaffrey has found plenty of reasons for excitement.

"I think we have so much speed and versatility, we have a dynamic quarterback, and we have someone who knows how to get his guys in the best position to succeed," McCaffrey said. "I think that's the thing that excites me the most."

So as we all socially distance and wade through the uncertainty of what's to come, McCaffrey is staying on track by doing what he does best — controlling what he can with a regimented routine.

"Every day right now, I'm just treating it like it's the same schedule — treating it like it's the offseason program for me," said McCaffrey, who last week signed the richest running back contract in NFL history. 

"I'll wake up, work out, have meetings, work out again, and then study a little more at night and hang out with my family and that's about it."

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