If you follow offseason workout schedules for NFL teams, you know the basic fundamentals of the offseason program known as Organized Team Activities (OTAs). There three phases of OTAs, with the third being the most notable.
Phase 1 is when players are working with strength and conditioning coaches and getting in shape for the upcoming season.
Phase 2 is when players can start to work with individual coaches, and can begin doing position drills and workouts.
Phase 3, which includes mandatory minicamp, is when teams can start working on team drills. It could be 7-on-7, 9-on-9 or even 11-on-11. There are no pads, but there can be 13 total workouts during Phase 3, 10 are considered just standard OTAs, while three are minicamp.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers released their offseason workout schedule, the team had scheduled 10 OTAs, and would wrap up their offseason schedule with mandatory minicamp this week. Suddenly, without any official notice, the Steelers cut the last four OTA workouts and had their minicamp a week earlier than scheduled.
No one knew why, or who, made the decision, until Mike Tomlin spoke with the media after the first day of minicamp. Here is how the interaction went down with the question and answer session:
Reporter: Who made the decision to only do two weeks of OTAs?
Tomlin: I did.
Reporter: What went into that?
Tomlin: Personal choice.
For the football fan, eliminating workouts seems to be counterintuitive, especially for a team which is ushering a new era at quarterback and trying to get a new defensive coordinator acclimated with his staff/players.
Nonetheless, what is becoming more known is the Steelers aren’t alone as it pertains to trimming back their offseason schedule. In fact, more and more teams are doing just that.
This from a recent ESPN article on the topic:
The Eagles have scaled the on-field portion of their offseason training program way back. Teams are allowed to hold 10 OTA practices as well as a three-day mandatory minicamp during Phase III, the part of the offseason where 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills are permitted. Philadelphia joined the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals as the only teams that declined to schedule a minicamp, while holding a league-low six of a possible 13 Phase III practices. Sirianni opted not to conduct 11-on-11 drills during those six practices, preferring to focus more time on fundamentals in individual drills to lay a proper groundwork for training camp.
The Eagles represent a group of teams opting to lighten players’ offseason workloads. Earlier this week, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson announced that most veterans would be exempt from attending minicamp. The New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants are among the teams that cut their minicamps short.
Injuries are a part of the game, but it seems NFL coaches are doing whatever they can do decrease the chances of dealing with injuries throughout the season.
Will this methodology prove to be valuable and worthwhile? That has yet to be seen, but this is exactly what the players, and NFLPA, want. They want less offseason workouts to decrease injuries during the season. If the coaches of these franchises feel as if the work they’ve done is good enough to get them to training camp, you have to think they would know best. After all, there is only so much you can do in shorts in the game of football.
What do you think about this? Let us know your thoughts on this topic, and others, as the Steelers enjoy a break before reporting to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 26th.