Imagine leaving college life to move across the country to become a multi-millionaire with a new job.
Now imagine doing that during a pandemic and a heat wave that doesn’t make you want to go outside anyway — all while having to navigate a new company culture virtually.
Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Isaiah Simmons is in the middle of such circumstances. Good thing is he currently has his mother and brother with him in Arizona, and he finally got clearance to at least pop in to his new place of employment over the past week.
Simmons and other rookies have been attending morning meetings at the team’s Tempe facility, going through walk-throughs and weight-lifting sessions before attending virtual meetings in the afternoon.
It’s not been the classic rookie experience, to say the least.
“Coming into this is obviously a struggle, just learning each and every day of how things operate on the professional level because it’s a lot different than college,” Simmons said on a Zoom call Wednesday. “Just learning everything virtually … it’s a little bit tougher.”
Simmons physically inked a four-year, $20.7 million fully guaranteed deal over the weekend, reported NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
He’s been learning the playbook and is part of a group of rookies who were first in the Cardinals’ building before veterans began testing for coronavirus on Tuesday.
Simmons tends to look at everything positively. He hasn’t recalibrated his personal goals this year despite the uncertainty and the inability to get on the field with a full team. Somehow, this is as the calendar is about to turn to August.
“I’m not going to adjust my personal goals just because we’re having a little adversity with this whole pandemic. It’s either I’m going to achieve my goals or I’m not at the end of the day,” Simmons said.
“My biggest goal is just to make the biggest impact that I can.”
It’s curious whether that impact has changed in the Cardinals’ eyes considering the limited offseason.
Touted for versatility out of Clemson, Simmons, the No. 8 overall pick, unsurprisingly hasn’t been pulled into position group meetings other than his main position at inside linebacker.
“I think it’s all just that’s where my coaches want me to play,” Simmons said. “Everybody is paid to do their job out here so I don’t know if I’m necessarily needed to do everything that I did in college.”
To that point, Arizona paid outside linebacker Devon Kennard to line up opposite Chandler Jones. That doesn’t mean Simmons hasn’t studied Jones’ technique hoping to take tidbits from the sack-master’s skillset.
It also doesn’t mean Simmons isn’t looking at film of Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey or Chiefs defensive back Tyrann Mathieu — two other players he named — to help him develop as a coverage guy. Simmons might need to act like a nickelback if he earns playing time alongside fellow inside backers Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell.
There’s a lot of time for the Cardinals to determine if Simmons’ role will grow beyond inside linebacker in his rookie season. There’s no preseason to prepare for and a lot more pressing matters regarding player health to worry about.
In the meantime, Simmons is unbothered by the unique circumstances caused by the coronavirus that might be hampering the development of all NFL rookies.
On the field, he’s optimistic. Off of it, it’s no big deal.
“I kind of just hang out,” he said. “Not really anything to do anyway. The whole state’s shut down but even if it wasn’t I’m kind of just a chill, stay-at-home kind of guy. Especially with this heat, I don’t think I want to go outside.”