Mask mandate complicated Philip Rivers, Frank Reich reunion


INDIANAPOLIS – Who was that masked man? 

Frank Reich had no clue. What amounted to a reunion between former coordinator and his QB1 was instead little more than two ships passing in the dark of night. 

Philip Rivers, the former San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers standout, recently was pumping iron in the weight room at the Indianapolis Colts’ Farm Bureau Football Center. In keeping with COVID-19 guidelines, he was wearing a mask. 

Reich, who worked closely with Rivers for three years in San Diego, was going about his normal workday as the Colts’ head coach. He was walking down the hallway outside the weight room, chatting with a colleague. 

“It was actually kinda funny,’’ Reich said on a Wednesday Zoom conference call. “He was in the weight room lifting, and I walked by. He said, ‘Hey, coach.’ 

“I just kinda glanced over and waved because someone was walking with me, and I was talking to him. Because Philip had a mask on I didn’t even recognize it was him. It was only a glance. I would have (recognized him) if I got an up-front view.’’ 

Rivers laughed as he recalled the drive-by “meeting.’’ 

“Coach did, he walked right by,’’ he said. “I think I kinda hollered (and) he kept walking.’’ 

Each day Rivers navigates his new NFL home, he understands how such a who-the-heck-was-that situation can occur. Even though he and Reich share a deep history, these are different times, and Rivers still is trying to put faces to names. Face coverings only complicate the process. 

“I’m telling you, it’s a little bit of a challenge in these masks and things that we’re wearing,’’ he said. “I feel like I’ve got a better feel offensively, but I’m trying to get the defensive guys down. 

“I try to wait to catch a glimpse with their mask down or in front of their locker so I can se their nameplate. That helps.’’ 

The latest phase of the COVID-19-altered training camp intermixes meetings with 60-minute walk-throughs on the practice field, the latter of which is instrumental in the installation of the offensive and defensive schemes and concepts. To maintain social distancing, players are being split up into smaller groups. 

“Just tweaking the schedule,’’ Reich said. “You just have to be creative and make the most of it. It’s worked out well. 

“Our coaches are doing a great job of really maximizing those 60 minutes. Very efficient.’’ 

The current phase still doesn’t allow individual work under the supervision of coaches. Even so, Rivers is getting together with his new skill players and making up for time that was lost when offseason workouts were canceled. 

No sooner does Rivers come off the practice field than he’s peppered with questions from Reich. 

“I talk to Philip every day after the session and try to get a blow-by-blow,’’ Reich said. “It’s funny. You’re so hungry to watch these guys do it. ‘How did so-and-so look? Tell me, what throws did you throw? How’d you throw? Describe it to me.’ 

“I’m half-kidding, but I’m actually serious. They’re working hard, but they’re ramping up. They’re doing that in a ramp-up phase. They’re not going crazy.’’ 

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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