NFL OTA Rules 2014: Explaining Offseason's Workout and Contact Regulations

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NFL OTA Rules 2014: Explaining Offseason's Workout and Contact Regulations
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The 2014 NFL draft is finally over and teams can now turn their focus toward actual football. The first step of that is organized team activities (OTAs) and other offseason workouts.   

Due to the fact that the draft was pushed back two weeks into May, squads now have less time to prepare for the upcoming season. In fact, the usual three-day minicamp reserved for rookies to get acclimated to their surroundings is now gone.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained the plan for his rookies on the team's website: "They’ll come in tomorrow… Sunday. They’re going to have to come in and get oriented to living in a new area, finding their way around, kind of get acclimated to New England along with the football part of it."

Obviously, there is not a lot of time for these young players to celebrate the moment before getting to work as professional athletes.

The good news is that rookies should still get the same amount of time as usual with their new teams, as noted by Kevin Seifert of ESPN:

Each part of the offseason workout is outlined in the latest CBA. Here is a look at the schedules for each team followed by an explanation of the process.

2014 Offseason Schedule by Team
Team First Day OTAs Voluntary Minicamp Mandatory Minicamp
NFC East
Dallas Cowboys April 21 May 27-29, June 2, June 4-5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
New York Giants April 21 May 28-30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13 - June 17-19
Philadelphia Eagles April 21 May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
Washington Redskins April 21 May 27-29, June 2-4, June 9-12 April 29 - May 1 June 17-19
NFC North
Chicago Bears April 22 May 27-28, May 30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
Detroit Lions April 7 May 20-22, May 27-29, June 2-5 April 22-24 June 10-12
Green Bay Packers April 22 May 28-30, June 3-5, June 10-13 - June 17-19
Minnesota Vikings April 7 May 28-30, June 3-5, June 9-12 April 29 - May 1 June 17-19
NFC South
Atlanta Falcons April 21 May 27-29, June 2-4, June 10-13 - June 17-19
Carolina Panthers April 21 May 27-29, June 3-5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
New Orleans Saints April 21 May 27-29, June 3-5, June 16-19 - June 10-12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers April 7 May 20-22, May 27-29, June 2-5 April 22-24 June 10-12
NFC West
Arizona Cardinals April 21 May 20-22, May 27-29, June 2-5 - June 10-12
St. Louis Rams April 21 June 3, June 5-6, June 9-10, June 12, June 16-17, June 19-20 - -
San Francisco 49ers April 21 May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13 - June 17-19
Seattle Seahawks April 21 May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
AFC East
Buffalo Bills April 22 May 28-30, June 2, June 4-5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
Miami Dolphins April 21 May 27-28, May 30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
New England Patriots April 21 May 27, May 29-30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13 - June 17-19
New York Jets April 21 May 27-28, May 30, June 2, June 4-5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
AFC North
Baltimore Ravens April 21 May 28-30, June 3-5, June 9-10, June 12-13 June 17-19
Cincinnati Bengals April 21 May 27-29, June 3-5, June 16-18 June 10-12
Cleveland Browns April 7 May 20-21, May 23, May 27-28, May 30, June 2-3, June 5-6 April 29 - May 1 June 10-12
Pittsburgh Steelers April 22 May 27-29, June 3-5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
AFC South
Houston Texans April 7 May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13 May 6-8 June 17-19
Indianapolis Colts April 21 May 27-29, June 2-4, June 9-12 - June 17-19
Jacksonville Jaguars April 21 May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13 - June 17-19
Tennessee Titans April 7 May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-12 April 29 - May 1 June 17-19
AFC West
Denver Broncos April 21 May 28-30, June 2-4, June 16-19 - June 10-12
Kansas City Chiefs April 21 May 27-29, June 3-5, June 10-13 - June 17-19
Oakland Raiders April 22 May 27-28, May 30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-12 - June 17-19
San Diego Chargers April 22 May 27-29, June 2-4, June 9-12 - June 17-19

via ESPN.com

The offseason program is a three-phase process, but the first two feature very little football preparation. In the first section, coaches are not even allowed to attend; instead, only strength and conditioning coaches can attend.

Interestingly, footballs are not even allowed on the field during this period except for quarterbacks throwing to unguarded receivers.

In the second phase, coaches enter the fold but there is still not contact or even helmets allowed. Of course, injuries can still occur even without full hitting. Nate Burleson learned that first hand, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen:

Still, the NFL does its best to prevent any types of ailments before the real season begins.

The third phase is the most commonly known for its OTAs. As you can see, there is a lot of variety with the offseason workouts as each organization is free to choose its own schedule. 

Each team has 10 days worth of workouts that they are free to place whenever they want during these months. Franchises like the Indianapolis Colts chose to condense the workouts to be as close together as possible while giving players plenty of time for rest and relaxation between the weeks.

Jim Mone/Associated Press

On the other hand, a squad like the St. Louis Rams can spread their workouts apart with very little down time between each appearance. This could allow the coaching staff to better monitor a team full of young players.

Contact is still banned at the OTAs, including one-on-one drills that pit an offensive player against a defensive player. This allows players to get a better grasp of the playbook without much risk of a dramatic injury that could affect the regular season.

The NFL has even gone as far as limiting what players can do in the other days of the week during this period of time, according to the CBA:

Players may be (1) at the Club facility no more than four hours per day, no more than four days per week, and not during week­ ends; and (2) on the field no more than ninety minutes per day. In addition, the Club may not specify to any player more than two specific hours a day during which it suggests that the player be at club facilities.

This prevents any coaching staff from taking advantage of the players by forcing them to do extra work. Plenty of people in that position would suggest "voluntary" workouts for young players to help their standing with the team, but this prevents any sort of unfair treatment. 

Once the minicamps begin, players are allowed to wear helmets, but contact is once again limited. The good news is the teams are allowed to walk through plays and get a true sense of what things will be like with their new teammates.

Obviously, not much of the offseason work will resemble a game without pads or contact for virtually all of it. However, it is an invaluable part of the season for each member of the team to understand his role going forward. This is especially important for young squads and ones with new head coaches. 

The players are then handsomely compensated on a weekly basis with a salary depending on how long they have been in the league.

Although there is not much to excite fans, just know that we are that much closer to the start of games. The first preseason contest of the year will take place on Aug. 3 between the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants.

 

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