The Broncos’ offseason workout program begins today with the onset of Organized Team Activities or OTA’s. They won't be donning the pads just yet, but this will be the first time that Peyton Manning will be around most of his new Broncos’ teammates. But he’s already spent plenty of time coaching his receivers in the Manning offense. We’ve heard that the new Broncos Quarterback has been familiarizing himself with a few of his receivers already and has been chomping on the bit ready to go full gallop.
The Indianapolis Colts, along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams, have had a two-week head start to their programs by virtue of having new head coaches. Because of the Lockout last year, Broncos head coach John Fox didn't get that opportunity. With that in mind, let’s go over the new rules outlined by the new CBA in result of last season’s Work stoppage.
- All NFL teams must wait until the third Monday in April to begin OTA’s. The exception to this rule is, any team with a new head coach is permitted 2 extra weeks to get to know their new players. They can start their OTA’s on the first Monday in April.
- OTA programs for teams with new head coaches can run nine total weeks in a 12-week period, with at least eight of the weeks consecutive. Other teams have a 10-week window for their nine-week programs.
- OTA’s cannot exceed four workouts per player in a week and are limited to weekdays.
- Players receive at least $155 per day for participating in the program, provided they participate in at least three of four scheduled sessions in a week. Players get the $155 per workout if there are fewer than four scheduled sessions in a week.
There are 3 stages in the OTA schedules, each with their own set of rules
- Stage One covers the first two weeks. Players are limited only to strength and conditioning, or injury rehabilitation. Strength coaches are the only coaches allowed to watch or otherwise be involved during this period. Quarterbacks can throw passes to receivers during this phase, but no defense is permitted. Otherwise, no footballs are allowed on the field. Players cannot wear helmets. All drills must be dead-ball drills.
- Stage Two covers the next three weeks. All coaches are allowed on the field. Individual instruction is permitted. Offensive and defensive units can run plays, but not against one another. No one-on-one drills are permitted. Players cannot wear helmets.
- Stage Three covers the next four weeks, including up to 10 days of organized team activities. Teams can hold three days of OTAs in the first two weeks of this phase, with a maximum of four days in the third or fourth week. A mandatory minicamp for veterans falls during the other week. All coaches can participate during this third phase. Offensive and defensive units can run plays against one another. Coverage and return teams can work against one another. However, no live contact is permitted. Players can wear helmets, but they cannot wear pads of any kind, including shells.
Players are allowed to work out at team facilities on their own outside offseason programs without pay. Teams cannot reimburse their players for any expenses incurred during this time. nor can they supervise the workouts other than to make sure players used equipment properly.
The rules also prevent any practices or meetings with coaches, group or individual film study with coaches or playbook study with coaches.
These statutes were brought on by the rest of the league copying former Bronco head coach Mike Shanahan, who adopted the practice from Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs. So called "Voluntary Offseason Workouts" were integrated and were inferred to be mandatory if the player wanted to ensure playing time during the season. After the Broncos back to back Super Bowl wins, the rest of the league followed suit thinking this was the route to success. After that, players were forced to workout year-round and that eventually was enough for the players to bargain for more time off during the offseason. Thus the limitations that are currently in place. With Training Camp 3 months away, there is still ample time to prepare.
The league sent a memo to all 32 teams at the beginning of the month as a reminder of the new offseason rules and the five categories of players who may participate in OTA’s.
1) players currently under contract
2) Restricted Free Agents who have received qualifying offers, signed or not
3) Unrestricted Free Agents whose contracts have expired and who may sign with another team through July 22
4) players whose contracts have expired by whose teams retain exclusive negotiating rights (ERFAs)
5) Any player who has been drafted but who hasn’t signed a contract yet.
Of course, any player who doesn’t have a contract is open to injury if they participate in OTA’s, even though these workouts are designated as "non-contact." The CBA has taken that into account and provided verbage to that effect.
Article 21, Section 9
states a player subject to a Required Tender by a Club, but who has not signed a Player Contract, or Unrestricted Free Agent whose Player Contract with that Club has expired, may enter into an Offseason Workout Program and Minicamp Participation Agreement in order to participate in the offseason workout program and minicamp(s) of that Club. The NFL and the NFLPA shall agree upon a standard such Participation Agreement, which shall also serve as the offseason workout addendum required by Section 3 of this Article. A copy of all Participation Agreements shall be submitted to the NFL, which shall provide a copy to the NFLPA.
The NFL and NFLPA recently came up with standard language to cover such players (Appendix Q to the collective bargaining agreement). This new Appendix Q protects players in case they are injured while participating in team activities during the offseason. In the case of an injury, a player will receive as a one-year salary the greater of his required tender, his applicable minimum salary or the amount negotiated by the player and the team. Participation by a player is voluntarily under this provision so he can withdraw at any time with impunity.
OTA’s are an essential element to build the foundation of a cohesive football team. Coaches use OTA’s and Training Camp to ensure every player on their team gets on the same page. That way they have the opportunity to jell and are prepared for the start of the regular season in September.
Rejoice Bronco fans! The 2012 season is just around the corner.
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