For the record, Organized Team Activites (OTAs) are completely voluntary. Players cannot be fined or punished for missing these workouts. With that said, it doesn’t mean teams, including players and coaches, don’t expect everyone in attendance to get a good start on their preparation for the upcoming season.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, headlines are made almost weekly about Le’Veon Bell missing OTAs. Bell hasn’t attended one of these workouts since he has had the Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag placed on him the past two seasons. And for a player who technically isn’t under contract, since he hasn’t signed his tender, he is not doing anything wrong by the letter of the law.
Again, these are voluntary workouts.
In fact, there have been several big-name stars for the black-and-gold who have missed several workouts, yet there hasn’t been nearly as big of a deal made over these players choosing to do other things rather than workout with their teammates.
This from Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turned out for the first practice May 22 and has not been here since, missing the past four. Antonio Brown attended the first two practices and has missed the past three.
While the fan base and media pile on Bell, not much has been made of Roethlisberger and Brown missing, but teammates notice.
“It’s tough, you wish they were here,” David DeCastro told Bouchette. “It’s a team event, but it’s not real football yet. It’s one of those things, you just look at it as an older guy, just get in shape.
“It would be great if they were out here, but at the same time we’ll be all right. I think they’ll definitely be all right.”
“As a group, we know we can’t slack. If there’s one chink in the armor, we get exposed. And at our position, we protect the most important player on the team, the quarterback.” Ramon Foster said.
“Especially with us it’s a little bit different, we’re all friends. We enjoy each other and like to be around each other too. It’s a mentality.”
After the Steelers’ workout on Wednesday, it reiterates how these workouts, although informative to young players, are completely pointless. The team saw offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins and tight end Jake McGee both likely lost for the season with non-contact injuries, and while they were depth players, it shows just how things can turn south in a hurry.
So, while many pile on Bell for missing OTAs, remember he isn’t alone, and fans have to ask themselves whether the risk of injury to a major player on the team, like Bell, Brown or Roethlisberger, is worth it.