Monday was supposed to represent a fresh start for the Panthers. With a new head coach in Matt Rhule, it was the day the team's offseason program was set to begin.
Of course, those plans were scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NFL had previously delayed the start of offseason programs indefinitely. And now, with all team facilities closed until further notice, even virtual learning has been delayed for at least a week.
General manager Marty Hurney said on a conference call with local reporters on Monday that the Panthers are awaiting further instruction from the league to determine when a virtual offseason program can get going.
Hurney noted the Panthers football operations staff has been working through all scenarios to make sure the team is ready to go whenever it receives the green light.
"We're still waiting for the league to tell us when that starts, so we do not have a date yet," Hurney said. "But right now, it's a lot like going into a draft where you're just getting prepared for all the scenarios and just wait and see when we can move forward."
As Hurney alluded to on draft preparation, the team is awaiting word from the NFL on exactly how the logistics of the event will work — details like who can be where and how the picks will be communicated to the league.
"Probably the one that takes the most time is going to be if we're all in our own houses, how that communication's going to work," Hurney said. "I think we're going to be fine."
MARTY HURNEY CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO:
Hurney has been working from home instead of doing his usual rounds on the pro days circuit in late March and early April. He said he's teleconferenced more than he ever figured he would — "as an old dog like me," were his exact words — and the personnel staff has probably met more than usual since everyone is grounded.
"We communicate very well," Hurney said. "So now, when you do communicate very well, you have to find different ways and adjust to different situations of how you're going to do it. And I think we have plans in place for every scenario."
While teams are unable to bring in draft prospects to their facilities as they normally would, they are able to meet with players through videoconferencing, like FaceTime or Zoom. Hurney said the team has gotten value out of those meetings.
"I think it all helps. I think you just get a feel for the player's personality. You can ask them football questions," Hurney said. "It's no different. It's just another piece of the puzzle like the Combine is or meeting them at the Senior Bowl. Even though it's a little different through videoconferencing, I think it accomplishes the same thing."
As far as who the Panthers may select at the end of the month, Hurney gave few hints aside from saying Carolina has addressed many of its offensive holes through free agency and hasn't spent the same resources on defense.
"I think we've, obviously, added depth with receiver. We, I think, have added depth and competition on the offensive line. We've changed quarterbacks," Hurney said. "When you look at the defensive side of the ball, I think that's where we probably haven't added as much as we have on offense. So if you were to say, 'What area would you look at the most?' It would be defense rather than offense at this point."
As the organization deals with the realities of planning to select players during a pandemic, Hurney has found a couple silver linings.
"I think the positive is that we definitely have more time to meet with our scouts, meet with our coaches through the teleconferencing calls. And basically, it does give you more time to watch tape because you're not traveling to pro days," Hurney said. "And that's kind of our world. We're used to adapting and adjusting every day. And I think we're going to feel as prepared going into this draft as we would be if we were going to pro days. You just have to adjust."