Now that the last embers of the 2014 NFL draft have faded, the landscape of the league shifts to late May, when OTAs and minicamps officially kick off the journey to the regular season.
This offseason has a slightly different flavor to it as the draft was pushed back two weeks to early May, meaning teams have less time to get acquainted with new additions of both the rookie and free-agent variety.
In other words, OTAs and minicamps are more important than ever, although the rules teams must adhere to haven't changed much.
Diehard fans will want to make it down to a practice or two if possible, but at the very least, most will be sure to scour the news each day. For those intent on monitoring the offseason closely, here's a look at the full calendar for each team:
|Team||First Day||OTAs||Voluntary Minicamp||Mandatory Minicamp|
|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 7||May 27-29, June 2-4, June 9-12||April 29 - May 1||June 17-19|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
The delay of the draft process has been the source of vivid offseason controversy. As Kevin Seifert of ESPN notes, rookies still get similar treatment in most areas, but via a smaller window:
Rookies will have same number of OTAs + minicamps. They'll just happen a little later. Maybe less downtime before camp.— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) May 8, 2014
If the calendar for rookies seems a bit mashed together in comparison to past years, that's because it is. Count Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis as one who vehemently disagrees with the new process, via the Bengals' official website:
I think the calendar, as it is this year, presents problems for the football side of things. This is the time we should be spending with the players. Secondly, it takes away an opportunity for the rookies. As far as teaching goes, it’s a great progression to have an opportunity for them to come and spend time at a rookie camp, have an opportunity to go home for a bit and absorb what they got exposed to, and then come back with the other players and to have the second time around. To me, that’s a much better teaching progression, so then they get it again a third time when we go to training camp so they can get things locked down. We are kind of skipping a step of that now (the rookie camp) because there is no reason to bring those guys in next week, and then overwork them the next weekend because they are going to be the first guys that have all the soft tissue injuries. So we are going to skip that step in the process here.
Lengthy, but it is important to understand the new process and how the draft delay will potentially impact the offseason.
Impressionable rookies must not only soak up new playbooks (in a shorter period of time), meet teammates and coaches and simply learn their way around facilities, but they also have to deal with moving to and learning a new city, potentially relocating families and dealing with a wealth of newfound finances.
Those injuries Lewis hints at? Contact is limited, but soft-tissue issues are the norm and routinely strike down rookies not accustomed to the rigors of the pro game and lining up against elite competition.
Cleveland wideout Nate Burleson is the most recent example, and he is an 11-year pro. His agent, Ken Sarnoff, has the details:
FOR the record - @Nate13Burleson hurt his arm in OTA's. He had a very minor surgery. He will be 100% for day 1 of camp! Again 100% for camp!— Ken Sarnoff (@KenSarnoff) May 10, 2014
Rookies to watch under this strange timetable? There is Johnny Manziel in Cleveland, who by all accounts should earn the starting job under center. The same goes for Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota.
Will they be at a disadvantage and suffer as a result? This offseason may prove to be quite the interesting test case.
Lewis and the Bengals are just one team of many who will simply go without a fixture of the normal offseason process, per NFL Network's Albert Breer:
A number of teams have decided to forgo having a rookie minicamp this year b/c of the shorter window before camp. Casualty of a later draft.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 11, 2014
For veterans, those who show at voluntary camps sometimes get lucrative bonuses. They understand, as well as fans, that the lack of contact makes for a rather boring affair that acts more as a conditioning test than anything.
When things bleed into actual minicamps, players are then allowed to don helmets. Pads are still a no-go, but the process becomes much more entertaining to the observer as coaches run through actual formations and strategy.
Nothing too exciting yet for fans, but football is football. The next two months of action are quite reserved, as full rosters and coaching staffs mesh for another stab at a Super Bowl.
It's the infancy stage that will draw yawns from fans after an extensive and exciting draft process, but it's one that signifies football's return is much closer than fans realize. The first preseason kickoff is less than three months away.