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Lions coach Matt Patricia‘s makeshift home office: Grinding tape, virtual meetings, family

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A look at the players the Detroit Lions added in the 2020 NFL draft. Detroit Free Press

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As much of the country’s workforce works from home during the , people are also learning how to face unique challenges.

The NFL's  aren't immune to those challenges, and recently coach had to chase a couple of birds out of his house in Northville after they entered through the chimney.

The Lions kicked off Phase 1 of their voluntary nine-week and that too had its challenges. But when Patricia held his first full-squad meeting, he was emotional.

Lions coach Matt Patricia breaks down video of his team from last year in his makeshift office in his house. (Photo: Matt Patricia)

“I had a squad meeting this week where I had 100 dudes on there — players and coaches,” Patricia told the Free Press on Friday. “It was awesome. It was just great to see everybody’s face. It was great to see everybody’s eagerness and excitement and energy and feel all of that and just hear everybody's voices.”

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Phase 1 continues this week, followed by three weeks of Phase 2 that starts May 11, then Phase 3 (also known as organized team activities) begins June 1. The Lions will hold a .

It’s a massive undertaking that involves new technology and new personnel. Patricia expects to have 90 players plus coaches and staff spread across 49 states and four time zones.

The NFL let teams choose whether to devote their three days of player access to virtual teaching or virtual workouts and the Lions chose teaching, which Patricia plans to continue into Phase 2. 

“We decided to go with the classroom,” Patricia said, “because I thought the teaching was some of the most important things that we need to do now, not only for the players but for the coaches. We have a lot of new coaches and we have a lot of new stuff that’s going in. And quite frankly, the spring is a great time not only for the players but for the coaches to get better being coaches.”

North head coach Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions talks with Dan Miller during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Jan. 21 2020 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Vasha Hunt, USA TODAY Sports)

Virtual workouts also would have involved dealing with different states’ social-distancing guidelines. Patricia isn’t worried about players staying on top of their own workouts.

“I fully trust these guys,” he said. “This group is going to work out, they’re going to go get in shape, they’re going to do everything they can possibly do to have themselves ready to go for training camp.”

Road ahead:

Take a look:

Patricia and his staff tried to give themselves as much of an advantage as they could before they started.

“It was big for me learning the things I did during the draft,” he said, “when you’re talking to a lot of the college coaches and asking them about their players. I made it a point to find out like hey, how have you been doing your virtual teaching because they’ve been already doing it for a month. So they’ve already been through a lot of the trials and tribulations.”

The NFL has left it up to each team to figure out what works best for them. Patricia has shared insight with some of his fellow NFL coaches. There hasn’t been one great moment of consensus, but it has been helpful to hear about the approaches other teams are taking.

“Honestly,” Patricia said, “I think what most teams have done through the course of getting ready for the draft, at least with the head coaches I’ve talked to, everyone’s got a little something a little bit different, everyone’s using something a little bit different.” 

Lions coach Matt Patricia instructs players during a joint football practice with the Houston Texans on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Houston. (Photo: David J. Phillip, AP)

One specific technical decision the Lions are trying to figure out is which of three video-conference applications works best for them among Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. He made sure the Lions’ information technology department knew what to put on the iPads that would be sent to players.

“I would say the technology that has come to the forefront of the pandemic situation that we’re in, we’re very closely dealing with and talking to these companies and pushing and pushing and pushing how much we can do with technology,” Patricia said. “Even though it’s probably equally as difficult as me trying to get my parents to understand how to get on a Zoom call, we’re trying to set up much more advanced processes. Like if you’re a player and you log in, your name might have different designations that put you in different rooms based on a timeline and based on a meeting schedule.”

Patricia’s goal at the outset has been to solve any kinks in technology early in order to help coaches — who he said along with players have “a bunch of different levels of user comfort” with technology — teach effectively.

“We’ve just been going through with (coaches) in a lot of meetings trying to get them up to speed with the technology so that the teaching, especially when we get into hardcore phases of teaching, that it’s fluid and efficient,” Patricia said.

Carlos:  

Of course, the biggest challenge yet is welcoming the rookies that include , as well as the Lions’ eight other 2020 draft picks and .

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Ohio State‘s Jeff Okudah celebrates a tackle on Florida Atlantic‘s John Raine during the first quarter at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Aug. 31, 2019. Adam Cairns, Columbus DispatchThe Detroit Lions selected Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NFL draft on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Eamonn Reynolds/Detroit LionsOhio State‘s Jeff Okudah during the College Football Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl against Clemson on Dec. 28, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY SportsOhio State cornerback Jeff Okudah during the College Football Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl against Clemson on Dec. 28, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY SportsOhio State‘s Jeff Okudah breaks up a pass against Clemson‘s Justyn Ross in the third quarter of the College Football Playoff semifinal Fiesta Bowl against Clemson on Dec. 28, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz. Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY SportsJeff Okudah at the 2020 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Brian Spurlock, Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsJeff Okudah at the 2020 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Brian Spurlock, Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsOhio State‘s Jeff Okudah celebrates a fourth-down strop during the fourth quarter against Michigan at Michigan Stadium on Nov. 30, 2019 in Ann Arbor. Ohio State won, 56-27. Leon Halip, TNSOhio State cornerback Jeff Okudah plays against Michigan in the first half in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. APMichigan quarterback Shea Patterson tries to avoid Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah in Ann Arbor, Nov. 30, 2019. Paul Sancya, APMichigan State receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. catches a touchdown pass against Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah during the second quarter at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Junfu Han, Detroit Free PressJeff Okudah is a 6-foo-1, 200-pound cornerback from Ohio State. Joseph Maiorana, USA TODAY SportsOhio State defensive back Jeff Okudah plays against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 31, 2019. Jay LaPrete, APOhio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah reacts during the second quarter against Michigan at Ohio Stadium, Nov. 24, 2018. Joseph Maiorana, USA TODAY Sports

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Getting acclimated to the NFL is a challenge for any rookie, but when they can’t lean over to a veteran on the practice field or in a meeting room to ask a quick question, that’s an even bigger handicap.

“I think it’s huge,” Patricia said, “and I think that was part of the conversations I was having with everybody as far as making sure when we draft the people that we draft, we’ve got to make sure we understand there’s going to be no spring and we need to make sure that we get the right guy because they’re already going to have enough time.

“Every rookie already has a hard enough time and now you’re talking about a rookie that’s going to be coming in for either a minimal offseason or just training camp.”

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Patricia is encouraging his coaches to take advantage of working from home and seize upon any chance they get to improve themselves mentally or physically. Maybe they can reorganize the installation of part of the playbook or pick the brain of a Lions coach on the other side of the ball.

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia with his family at home during the 2020 NFL draft. (Photo: ESPN)

Patricia is enjoying and he gets to spend with his wife, Raina, and their two young sons and daughter.

“She is amazing at getting our kids ready, their school done and keeping it organized and getting homework turned in,” he said. “She is kicking ass with being mom and teacher and everything else.”

As for himself, Patricia continues to be engrossed in the endless work of being an NFL coach. He has a humble makeshift office that consists of a card table and several computer monitors. He’s an early riser and is joined in the morning by one of his sons, who works quietly on his schoolwork by his father's side.

Lions coach Matt Patricia breaks down video of his team from last year in his makeshift office in his house. (Photo: Matt Patricia)

The work is constant, but Patricia doesn’t mind because it allows him the flexibility of being around his family, helping his wife, and scheduling night-time meetings if he has to.

“Uh — it’s just a day,” he said. “It’s totally pluses and minuses. We’re working, but it’s great because for the five-minute break I might be running to get another cup of coffee or glass of water, I’m going to kiss three kids and hug my wife on the way to the refrigerator if I have to. That’s a totally great reset.

“Pretty soon, I'm going to pop my head in there and have a huge smile on my face because I don't get to see that stuff very much. And then I'm going to come back to my computer and I have 40 emails that have popped up in the last couple hours and all the rest of the stuff I've got to get done before tomorrow.”

Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez and follow him on Twitter . Sign up for our .

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We don't know when the Detroit Lions will be playing in 2020, but we know who they'll face and where. Here's a look at the schedule for this season. Wochit

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