OTA’s in football is an acronym for organized team workouts. OTAs take place in the offseason and allow the team a chance to practice together prior to the season starting. OTAs are typically voluntary for the players but the vast majority volunteer their time and attend the OTAs in the NFL.
When Are the NFL OTAs?
OTAs typically take place sporadically from mid-May until the start of the season. Though due to Covid restrictions many teams have opted to skip their organized team activities or reduce them to a shorter period.
OTAs are typically broken down into three sections. Phase one, which refers to the first two weeks of OTAs which is meant for conditioning and strength training.
In these first few weeks, you will not be doing football-related drills but rather starting to get your bodies back into shape for the NFL season. This is done to reduce the injury risk of players returning to the field. If the players started off OTAs performing risky drills like cut block it wouldn’t be beneficial to the players or the team.
The second phase of OTAs covers the next few weeks of practice and are the start of football drills. In this phase, players will be able to engage in football-related drills so long as they are not pitting the offense against the defense.
Again this phase of the OTAs is fairly easy on your body and still is not resembling a full practice.
The next and final phase of OTAs is phase three which is the most rigorous of the three phases of OTAs. In this phase of the workouts the team is able to complete two weeks of full practice. Though in these practices full contact and full speed blocks are still not allowed.
Though these practices are going to take up a much larger portion of the day than you would see in phase one or phase two.
It is typically in phase three that the veterans minicamp is scheduled.
Do You Have To Take Part In OTAs
Though it is not mandatory to attend all OTA’s the majority of players tend to attend them. Though it is important to point out that there are often contract factors that ensure players will show up to OTAs.
If you have signed a contract that includes a workout bonus that typically means the player will have to be present at OTAs to receive this bonus. This more or less makes OTAs mandatory for many players.
It is also worth mentioning that the coivd situation greatly changed the perspective on voluntary OTAs.
Prior to the covid pandemic, players would have the option but would almost always show up to OTAs. The most common reason players would not attend organized team activities was because they were requesting a trade. Or they are in the middle of contract negotiations.
If this was the case players often didn’t want to risk the chance of injuring themselves in the OTAs. Aside from these sorts of situations players almost always attended.
When the pandemic struck players were much more concerned about the risks of attending organized team activities. This is the first time we saw players really take advantage of the fact that these workouts are voluntary. In 2020 zero teams completed all their OTAs and in 2021 it is looking like only a few teams players are going to come out to the camp.
So all in all the answer is no, you do not have to take part. But if you don’t have health concerns or you have a workout bonus you will likely find yourself there.
Why Do OTA rules keep changing?
The reason OTA rulings always seem to change is due to the give and take occurring between the NFL and the NFLPA. In essence, these players association argues for the rights of the players. While the NFL argues for the rights of the league.
Understandably one of the aspects players don’t seem to enjoy about football is the hot summer training camps. This makes organized team activities a common topic of discussion each year. Often times the NFL may receive leniency in some other areas. That is if they are willing to take it easy on the players for OTAs.
This is why you see new rules each year shortening practice times and the length of mini camps.