My headline is silly, at least if you’re looking at it in a literal context.
Of course you notice when the Steelers' offseason schedule shifts from OTAs (Organized Team Activities), a totally voluntary event, to mandatory minicamp, which is a three-day affair that began on Tuesday and is...well, the name speaks for itself.
We’re Steelers fans, we know everything about the team’s offseason schedule. If you’re truly diehard, you probably know the eating schedule and diet of Najee Harris, the 244-pound running back whose size and frame don’t even come close to giving you the impression that he’s anywhere near the kind of runaway freight train that Christian Okoye, the 253-pound running back from the late-80s and early-90s, was when he was dubbed the Nigerian Nightmare during his playing days.
No, I’m talking about the tangible differences between OTAs and mandatory minicamps. Are there any actual distinguishing characteristics between the two? Does anything change other than the attendance factor? Do they install more of the upcoming season’s game plan? All I know for sure is it’s still just helmets and shorts. It’s still just football without hitting.
I think this is where OTAs have kind of changed the NFL’s annual offseason in the modern era of 24/7/365 football news. I don’t exactly know when these voluntary offseason workouts first began, but I do remember minicamp occurring in June every summer back when I was a kid. I also recall not being all that excited about it. Why? Because it wasn’t training camp, the Top Gun: Maverick of offseason workouts.
Minicamp used to be just an oasis of Steelers news in the dry desert that was once the NFL’s offseason, but at least it was distinguishable from rookie camp, training camp, etc.
Does mandatory minicamp even have a place in the NFL’s offseason franchise canon anymore? If OTAs are football in shorts, and if rookie camp is football in shorts, and these two events start well before minicamp, do we even need minicamp anymore?
Isn’t it sort of like jam, jelly and marmalade, three fruit spreads that, to quote the great Chandler Bing, may all actually be the same thing?
I can see a future where mandatory minicamp no longer exists, and we’re left with just OTAs and rookie camp. That would be fine by me because, at least in the case of OTAs, it would lead to more drama involving attendance, or a lack thereof.
I hope you enjoy the Steelers 2022 minicamp, and I hope you devour every last morsel of info that you can.
It may not be long before mandatory minicamps are a thing of the past.
But it’s okay because you likely won’t even notice.