Somewhere along the way these off-season workouts by NFL teams acquired the title of Organized Team Activities, or OTA for short.
It’s just a strange way to say practice. NFL teams are allowed to have 14 of these sessions along with a three-day mini-camp each year. New coaches get the opportunity to hold an extra mini-camp with the veterans.
The Chiefs will have their fourth session of the week on Friday. This one is open to the media, so we’ll have reports on Friday afternoon and Saturday on what happens during the session at the Truman Sports Complex.
The importance of these sessions is not hard to decipher. Among 32 NFL teams, from year to year there are about four or five that don’t really have any major additions to their roster or changes in their coaching staff or approach to the game.
That leaves 28 of the 32 teams trying to create something new and different each year and that requires time together, practice time and classroom sessions. Units with new pieces or ideas need to be able to work together. It’s far more important than actually going full-speed in practice against an offense or defense.
Helmets are allowed to be worn in the OTAs, so every player participating in the team work is wearing one. But no other pads are kosher in these drills. There are in fact a lot of restrictions to what goes on in these things.
The wording can be found on page 173 of the CBA, Article XXXV, Section 5. Miscellaneous:
- No club official shall indicate to a player that the Club’s off-season workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary (or that a player’s failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in the player’s failure to make the Club). Contact work (e.g. “live” blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run) is expressly prohibited in all off-season workouts …
- During the off-season program period, except for the fourteen days of organized team practice activity and mini-camps, 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 weekends; 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. Any player participating in an off-season workout program may select the other two hours in which he wishes to attend to conduct his weight training, etc. as long as he does so during the hours of operations of the Club’s weight room.
The question of contact is the tight rope that all coaches and players walk in these sessions. Hey, this is football and it’s a collision sport. Even with players geared down, it’s nearly impossible to go through a practice without some bumping and grinding. Over the years, many an offensive linemen has said they would just as soon wear their shoulder pads, given that eventually the activity against the defensive line sometimes gets physical.
Back on Monday during their first OTA session, Todd Haley warned his team repeatedly about going fast, playing with speed, but making sure they were not out of control.
“It’s really the first thing I said to them before each of the periods started,” noted Haley. “I said this is a non-contact deal and a lot of this is going to be learning and training how to practice efficiently and fast. Now we have the numbers and can come out and practice fast.”
Every coach says these things, but injuries happen. Just this week, the San Francisco 49ers lost CB Walt Harris to a torn ACL in his right knee when he bumped into a receiver during OTA action. Down in Tampa, new head coach Raheem Morris was cleaning up a mess on his team that came from a fight between OT Donald Penn and CB Aqib Taleb during a practice session. A noted hot head, Taleb swung his helmet at Penn but ended up hitting CB Torrie Cox in the face. Cox was jumping into the fray in an attempt to break it up and he bore the brunt of the punishment, with a facial laceration.
“We went out there yesterday and had a spirited practice,” Morris said of the Bucs. “Like I said, tempers boil over. Actions happen that you don’t like. You take it and handle it in-house. It’s a family affair. Then you come out to today and figure out how to change it.”
CHIEFS ANNOUNCE DONOVAN HIRE; FIRE NEWMAN
The Chiefs made official on Thursday what we told you about on Monday, that Mark Donovan has been hired. They’ve announced his title as Executive Vice President/COO. Donovan has spent the last six years with the Philadelphia Eagles.
He will report to team President Denny Thum.
What the team did not announce is that with the hiring of Donovan comes the termination of senior vice-president for administration Bill Newman. Apparently he will stay on the job until June 1, when Donovan comes into the building. Newman has been with the Chiefs since January 2005.
Newman’s departure pushes the number of people who have left the Chiefs at the executive, personnel and coaching level to 26 since the first of the year.
KIMBLE ANDERS MOVES UP THE COACHING LADDER
Former Chiefs and Pro Bowl fullback Kimble Anders was named the head football coach at Northeast High School. Last year, the Vikings were 1-9 with their only victory coming over J.C. Harmon.
Anders retired after the 2000 season and has continued to make his home in the Kansas City area. He has served as an assistant coach at Fort Osage High School, Mid-America Nazarene University, and Center High School.
Last year the Vikings were 1-9 with their only victory coming over J.C. Harmon. Over the last three seasons, Northeast has finished with a combined 7-20 record.
Anders played in 125 games over 10 seasons with the Chiefs, rushing for 2,261 yards and catching passes for 2,829 yards. He had 18 career touchdowns and was named to the AFC team for the Pro Bowl after the seasons.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
COWBOYS – WR Isaiah Stanback undergoes surgery on right knee. He’s expected to be recovered for training camp.
DOLPHINS – signed fifth-round draft choice TE John Nalbone.
49ERS – signed CB Dre Bly (Broncos).
GIANTS – signed OL Tutan Reyes; released TE Martrez Milner.
LIONS – signed OT Ephraim Salaam (Texans).
RAIDERS – signed S Keith Davis (Cowboys).