The offseason program is a three-phase process. And Phase Three is the most important of all of them.
That’s when Organized Team Activities happen, a fancy, verbose phrase for “practice.” They’re now commonly known as OTAs, still one syllable more than just saying “practice.”
Twenty teams start OTAs on Monday, based on the calendar the NFL released earlier this year. They are the Cardinals, Ravens, Bills, Bears, Cowboys, Packers, Texans, Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, and Titans.
Another 10 teams start OTAs on Tuesday. The Eagles begin next week, and the Bengals don’t begin until June 5.
The OTA practices are non-contact in nature. There was a time when contact happened on a consistent basis during offseason workouts, to the point at which most linemen would have preferred to wear pads, given the extent to which helmets were banging against their upper bodies.
Even now, contact sometimes happens -- especially for first-year, first-time coaches who either want to see some fire from their players or who can’t properly reel in the intensity displayed by up to 90 men trying to win 53 roster spots or both.
It’s the final push toward a six-week (or so) pause in activity before training camps open and the process formally begins of 32 teams competing for one eventual prize.
One of the other big questions is who will be there, and who won’t? In New York, how many of the sessions will new quarterback Aaron Rodgers attend? In Baltimore, how often will the Ravens -- who are installing a new offense -- see new receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. and quarterback Lamar Jackson?
Yes, it’s all voluntary. But, in most cities, the players will be volunteering to put in the time now, in an effort to better prepare for the Royal Rumble to come.