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Email: pineneedle@uncp.edu 

Voluntary Organized Team Activities Are Important Parts of the NFL Offseason

For those sports fans that are football fanatics and aren’t the biggest or even casual NBA fans and could care less about the Finals, this is the beginning of the dead time in the world of major sports. Those die-hard football fans are clamoring for any kind of news related to many of their favorite teams and players. The most talked about thing pertaining to the league now is the attendance of prominent players who are and aren’t attending voluntary OTAs (organized team activities).

     While attendance and participation in these programs are completely optional thank to the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), many believe some of the players skipping out on them need to be there with their coaches and teammates.

     There are various reasons why players chose not to attend the voluntary portion if offseason activities. Some of being that they wish to spend more times with family and friends before the grind of the season get underway, prefer to work out and hone their crafts on their own with their own personal training staff. Players up for new contracts chose not to attend because they don’t want to risk injury and then there are those who are seasoned vets already indoctrinated in the team’s established system.

     In the case of the Cleveland Browns’ star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who they acquired via trade in March, and New York Jets All-Pro runningback LeVeon Bell, who they signed in free agency, both should be in attendance because they are on new teams. Both inked new deals, Beckham Jr. last year with the Giants and Bell this year as an unrestricted free agent, so they need to be spending as much time as is allotted under the current CBA so they can get a jump on building chemistry, rhythm and getting the timing down with their new teammates.

     These voluntary activities serve a greater purpose than just giving the media something to talk about and are more than just players running around in shorts and helmets. Many teams use it as a time to hold “football school”, a term used by many coaches, in which they hold meetings as well as learn and install a new offensive or defensive system and for some learning the new additions to their schemes that they already versed and entrenched in.

     Beckham Jr. attended the first day of OTAs but hasn’t returned to the state of Ohio since and after a year and a half of not participating in any team football activities, Bell has yet to report to OTAs. Each of these players is expected to be pivotal or even the focal point of their team’s offenses and they are catching a lot of flak for not being there with their new teams learning their new schemes.

     With such a uniquely patient running style unlike anything the league has ever seen, Bell needs to get as much time with his new offensive line as possible so that they don’t stumble out of the blocks when the regular season comes, especially since he’ll only have one Pro Bowl lineman (Kelechi Osemele) paving the way in the run game instead of the three he had in Pittsburgh.

     Some defenders that are skipping out on, or in the case of the Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner reporting but not participating, OTAs were reminded why their decision is in their best interests when Redskins’ stud linebacker Ruben Foster was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in the early portion of their first bit of action back on the field.

     Any player is susceptible to injury on any given play on any given day so OTAs aren’t the only time of the year where they can go down with major injuries. While these activities are VOLUNTARY, they should be taken advantage of by rookies and veterans on new teams or on the same team under a new coordinator. Football school ha been in session for a couple weeks and Bell and Beckham Jr. have been truant up to this point with manditory mini camp on the horizon next week.

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