How Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff is building chemistry with teammates as NFL plans for OTAs

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The closer the Detroit Lions get to the start of Organized Team Activities, the more unrealistic it seems the Lions and other teams will be opting out of voluntary in-person workouts this spring.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff met virtually with reporters Thursday and did so from inside the team's Allen Park practice facility.

Goff said he will not stay in Detroit all spring, but he plans to return to town later this month.

Previously, Lions left tackle Taylor Decker, who makes his offseason home in Arizona, said he was traveling to Detroit briefly in the middle of this month, then would be back around May 24.

The Lions are scheduled to hold their first of 10 OTA practices May 25, with mandatory minicamp two weeks later, June 8-10. The formal offseason program, which includes rookie minicamp next week, ends June 17.

"We’ve been working through it as a team," Goff said. "We had a nice meeting at first and I know everyone’s got their own opinions and reasons. I believe we will get together at some point as a team. I don’t know where that will be, but every team’s doing it differently this year and I think Dan (Campbell has) been awesome working with the players and finding out how we want to do things and really taking care of us."

The NFLPA put out a statement on behalf of Lions players in April saying they would opt out of formal voluntary workouts due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Lions were the fourth of 21 teams to issue such a statement, and union leadership has since acknowledged their true hope is to permanently eliminate the NFL's offseason program.

While that may happen eventually, teams are going ahead with plans to hold voluntary workouts that feel mandatory to many players. Apart from that, there are competitive and financial reasons for players to take part in OTAs at team facilities.

T.J. Hockenson was one of a handful of Lions players who took part in an April throwing session with new QB Jared Goff in California.
T.J. Hockenson was one of a handful of Lions players who took part in an April throwing session with new QB Jared Goff in California.

Practicing together, in theory, should help a team's cohesiveness come fall, especially teams with a new head coaches and new offensive and defensive play callers like the Lions. And players who suffer serious injuries while working out at team facilities are protected contractually, while those who get hurt away from the building can have their salary guarantees voided.

"It’s definitely a tricky situation," new Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone said last month when asked if he will take part in in-person workouts. "It’s not the normal offseason. I think that we’re going through the first several weeks virtual and there's a ton to sort out that’s way above my pay grade that I’m just along for the ride."

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Whether the Lions hold a full complement of spring practices and how well those practices are attended remains to be seen, but Goff already held one small group workout with several of his receivers in California

Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who took part in the first session, told the Free Press last week that the Lions are planning another one "soon." Goff, who orchestrated similar workouts during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, said the first session was not meant to take the place of or replicate OTAs and just a chance "to get together, build chemistry."

"I think at the very least, just being on the field together in some capacity is helpful," he said. "But yeah, working on some more stuff, building chemistry with those guys, trying to understand what they like, what they don’t like and vice versa, them understanding me. It’s good work. You always want to get on the field as much as possible and hope to do that some more as well."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Detroit Lions players may opt out of the offseason opt-outs