The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

A Necessary Evil

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Five years ago the term OTA had no meaning in the NFL. Today everyone knows that OTAs means organized team activities. For all intents and purposes, OTAs are the equivalent of additional minicamp days, which in turn are just extentions of training camps days. The only difference is that in OTAs, contact is allegedly limited and the players wear only helmets and shorts. As one can imagine, the contact is always more significant than expected, or intended, and in the aftermath of Ben Roethlisberger's injury, one has to wonder whether OTAs are useful and valuable or dangerous and outdated.

OTAs for younger and rookie players are critical for their indoctrination and maturation. Having 14 additional team practice days prior to training camp is critical for the young players development as well as chances of making the 53-man final roster. These are high intensity practices which replicate actual game speed. Football, by definition, is difficult to train for without live bullets, so the vast majority of talent progression for young players occurs during this time.

However, for veteran players, ota's are necessary evils that are to be conquered and completed with fingers crossed that injuries are avoided. Most veteran players abhor live practices and hold their breath, waiting for their conclusion. Baseball and hockey have integrated and tiered minor league systems to develop their young talent, with players gradually progressing up the hierarchy. Football uses ota's and mini camp by sacrificing veteran players to get their younger counterparts ready. It seems more like the tail wagging the dog.

In the end, OTAs are a necessary evil for players and teams due to the inherent risk of injuries. The best way to proceed would be capping the number of veterans involved, and encouraging teams to use the practices to develop their younger talent.

By Peter Schaffer  |  June 4, 2009; 10:10 AM ET  | Category:  NFL , Peter Schaffer , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: What's the Difference? | Next: OTAs Command Control

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the NFL is not the likely entity to ask on “banning” OTA’s or converting them into “official practices”…instead that would be the NFLPA! OTA’s were put in place to allow for a hybrid of off-season conditioning days and more camp-like football activities. We currently only get a maximum of 14 OTA’s and one 3-day mini-camp (unless you hire a new head coach). That’s 17 days of authorized football activity over a 5 month span during the off-season (March-July). In that context, it’s already pared down quite a bit, especially considering how much you’d like to install during the off-season months so that you may hit the ground running when you report to camp. An interesting recent side light here…with all the talk of lengthening the regular season and thereby shortening the pre-season, wouldn’t that necessitate more football activities in the off-season? Or wouldn’t that require more authorized official off-season football practices? Once again, the NFLPA is probably more interested in throttling the off-season than the NFL.

Posted by: JimBeam2 | June 8, 2009 11:58 AM

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