OTA’s: The NFL’s Daycare Center?


One of the more interesting developments during the NFL’s modern era is the advent of OTA’s: Organized Team Activities.

Most are labeled voluntary while others are mandatory.

It’s those voluntary ones that really seem to get folks agitated.

If a veteran fails to report to the voluntary camps, his commitment is questioned; his work ethic, challenged.

If a player whose position on the team isn’t certain and he fails to appear at the voluntary camps, voluntary suddenly morphs into mandatory and that is met with the scorn of positional coaches and could spell doom for the AWOL player.

The jaded observer might label OTA’s (particularly the so-called voluntary ones) as the league’s way of babysitting athletes. These players that teams invest heavily in, represent the company and for young men with means tripping across the world sometimes in party mode, owners, GM’s and coaches can get a little nervous.

Just ask Tampa about Cody Grimm and Jacksonville about Maurice Jones-Drew.

The more optimistic observer will tell you that OTA’s are a way for teams to monitor the conditioning of athletes; familiarize newcomers with the playbook and prepare teams in a way that leads to greater efficiencies during training camp.

The jaded and the optimistic observers are probably both right.

That said, one of the more interesting things that surfaces in every training camp is the emergence of a young player who appeared on very few radar screens prior to such emergence.

But is the surprising eye-catching productivity real enough to make a difference on the field when the games actually mean something?

That’s a challenge for scouts and coaches throughout the league every summer.

Think of Bobby Rainey last season.

Many labeled him a “poor man’s Ray Rice.” But was he really? Can he be a productive player in the NFL or did he benefit from a determined effort, going balls to the wall against veterans who at times coast, looking just to get in the reps while avoiding injury and protecting their contracts – their livelihood?

There is a Bobby Rainey or more every year and this summer camp will be no exception.

That’s what happens when some players who are fighting for their careers compete against others trying to protect theirs.

It’s like getting a head start in a playground sprint.

And the end result can be deceiving.

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About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

5 Raves on “OTA’s: The NFL’s Daycare Center?

  1. paulie on said:

    Most years I would definitely agree, Playground 101. And only a very few seem to need that – maybe Cody and McKinnie come to mind. One one hand I’m sure ity wears on the vets and they resent it, but on the other side the rookies and UDFA’s probably can’t get along without it. However, this year may be a little different. With a new OC the whole team probably needs as many reps as possible to install a new offensive system. I’m really in no position to judge what the actual extent of difference will be. But from my observation of the end of last season and the post season run, I do think Caldwell has a different philosophy on how he uses his receivers and his play call pattern seems to be far less predictable than Cameron’s. Can’t wait to see the full package.

  2. JerryB on said:

    Once upon a time, pro football was a seasonal sport, with players working at “real” jobs during the off season and reporting to training camp that seemed lengthier than the current 3 weeks. Now, however, with the athletes’ salaries such that they no longer need “real” jobs, there is no “off season” as they participate in such sessions all year long. The only issue I have with OTA’s is that the more they practice, the greater the possibility for…..injuries!

  3. RJ on said:

    Honestly I think ALL OTA’s should be mandatory! These guys have off from January/February (depending on if they make the play-offs and how deep their run is) until the end of May, during which time the ONLY thing that is required/requested of them is that they stay in football shape (with no injuries, Suggs) and “keep their nose clean”. I am not sure why this is supposed to be some sort of hassle, especially for veteran players who should at least be making an effort to get to know the new guys and build team cohesion as early in the year as possible.

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