Atlanta Falcons' Alex Mack takes on coaching role in virtual offseason

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Alex Mack’s offseason workouts started with a couple of resistance bands, a squat rack and a Yeti cooler. Now the Atlanta Falcons center could charge a fee for use of his new home gym.

The 34-year-old Mack has a place in Hermosa Beach, California, an area that had been on strict lockdown until last Wednesday due to the COVID-19 outbreak. He couldn’t initially run on the beach with his fiancée or use the local fitness center. But rather than point to the pandemic as an excuse to take more time off, Mack decided to invest in his preparation for a 12th NFL season.

“I was on a mad search to find workout equipment,” Mack said. “I started with nothing, but now I can pretty much do whatever.”

Mack surfed the internet to find dumbbells, weights and a squat rack; he initially used that cooler as a box for squatting. He became familiar with brands such EliteFTS, Rogue and Sorinex.

“The hardest part is getting your hands on stuff with the whole planet trying to get home workout equipment,” Mack said. “And the poor UPS guy, that man has had to deliver an entire weight room to my house. So he’s getting in a good workout.”

Mack's four-day-a-week workouts include offensive line get-offs in his inclined driveway and medicine-ball throws in the back alley.

Mack knows even while in isolation, others look to him to set an example. That’s why he might be the most important figure of the Falcons’ virtual offseason in terms of keeping the offensive line working in unison. The Falcons remain in the process of trying to find continuity on the line, with a possible new starter at left guard and two second-year players trying to find their footing to the right of Mack.

During their 2016 Super Bowl run, the Falcons were the only team to start the same five offensive linemen, with Mack as the anchor. But the Falcons started three different line combinations in 2017, six in 2018 and five last season.

Mack has been much like an extension of the coaching staff right now without the benefit of on-field work as a group.

“I think it’s just harder for the linemen to group up -- whenever that’s safe to do so -- and work on the things that they need to work on," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "That’s an easier thing to do at the appropriate time for quarterbacks and receivers than it is for O-linemen. But Alex as a leader in the meetings, like when I sit in on O-line meetings right now, to see Alex, that’s what he’s done in the NFL and the enthusiasm for which he approaches virtual meetings in May is impressive.

“Alex was talking about how he’ll do everything he can to help [rookie] Matt Hennessy out. That just shows what kind of a pro Alex Mack is.”

As Koetter noted, Mack has embraced the nuances of the virtual offseason. Mack explained how important the individual Zoom meetings have been and how he’s able to share his wealth of knowledge with the younger linemen. The first week, he had one-on-one time with starting right tackle Kaleb McGary, who's in Washington state, because they are both in the Pacific Time Zone. Then the following week, it was starting right guard Chris Lindstrom.

“Alex is a amazing resource to have during times of adversity," Lindstrom said. "He has been through it all and understands what we need to do to be successful and he’s a great person to emulate."

The third week was backup Matt Gono. And Mack welcomed with open arms the rookie Hennessy, who will begin working at left guard but could be the center of the future.

Mack broke down the teaching element involved with the virtual offseason.

“They sent us out iPads and a lot of the install and that learning part will be done on our own and with video edits,” Mack said. “It’s an overlay clip of the offensive line coach [Chris] Morgan talking at you, so you can rewind it and hear it again. You’re encouraged to write down questions and then later, the following day or whenever you have your meeting, you can bring that stuff up.

“Like, there will be a video like we’re going to install a basic run to the right. You click on the video, and it’s Coach Morgan’s voice explaining how the play works. It’s like you screen share on the app so you can draw on it, talk about it. And then that disc gets sent to everyone on the line. For an older guy like me, it works great because I can watch the clip really quick and be like, ‘Oh, there’s the play.’ I don’t have to sit there and really go over stuff that I know.”

The extra time Mack has had during quarantine life typically has been devoted to his other love: cooking.

“Bread is something I’ve gotten more way into cooking because I have plenty of time on my hands, and I have a cookbook that has some bread-making stuff in it,” Mack said. “I’ve done a lot of barbecue steaks and chicken this year. And I got an air fryer. That’s been very handy. I recommend that for anybody trying to cook at home.

“But it’s not like I’m cooking everything and growing my own corn in the back. I’m still very much part of society and ordering food delivered. Uber Eats has been utilized, for sure.”

Mack doesn’t want to speculate about when the Falcons will congregate again, although the facility will be open to a limited number of staff beginning Tuesday.

"It just feels weird in terms of not being able to be at the facility because part of the thing that’s most fun about football is the connection with the guys: going in and seeing the guys in locker room and the camaraderie you feel working out with each other and pushing each other in the weight room,” Mack said. “Like that aspect makes everything much easier. Having the whole O-line there working out together doing the same thing, you might be tired but it’s like, ‘Everyone’s doing that? Well, let’s all do that.’

“Now on your own, it’s much more difficult. The only person motivating you is yourself. You’ve got to get yourself going. You have to have that drive. You have to do those extra reps because you know it’s the right thing to do.”