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Offseason workouts launch Monday for three teams

For the fourth time since the latest labor deal was negotiated, offseason workouts start in April, not March. The process gets started with teams with new coaches having a head start on the rest of the league.

The offseason program launches Monday for the Falcons and new coach Dan Quinn, the Bills and new coach Rex Ryan, and the Jets and new coach Todd Bowles. The 49ers and new coach Jim Tomsula and the Raiders and new coach Jack Del Rio will get rolling on Tuesday, and the Bears and new coach John Fox and the Broncos and new coach Gary Kubiak begin next Monday, the 13th.

The other 25 teams all open their offseason programs on April 20.

And now comes our annual summary of the offseason workout rules.

While the launch of the offseason program will be characterized by many as the official debut of the new coaches, the new coaches can’t be there for Phase One. The first phase consists of two weeks of strength and condition and rehab exercises only. Strength and conditioning coaches can be involved, but no other members of the staff. Footballs aren’t allowed -- except for kicking and punting, and quarterbacks can throw to receivers as long as those receivers aren’t covered.

Other members of the coaching staff (including the head coach) can be involved in up to two hours per day of classroom instruction and film study -- as long as the player isn’t at the facility for more than four hours per day.

Some players are looking forward to the unofficial launch of the 2015 season. Said Bills fullback Anthony “Boobie” Dixon last night on Twitter, “Feeling like the 1st day of school tomorrow, I’m excited.”

Phase Two has a three-week duration, with individual player instruction and drills and team practice without live contact, or team offense vs. team defense drills. Teams during Phase Two can run offensive or defensive plays, but without an actual defense or offense on the other side of the line of scrimmage. No helmets can be worn.
The four-week Phase Three includes up to 10 days of practice, technically known as organized team activities. There can be no live contact, but team drills (7-on-7, 9-on-9, 11-on-11) are permitted. There also can be no one-on-one offense vs. defense drills and no one-on-one special teams drills.

During the offseason workout period, with the exception of the 10 days of OTAs, players can’t be at the team’s facility for more than four hours per day, they can’t be at the facility more than four days per week, and they can’t be on the field for more than 90 minutes per day.

Complaints have lingered about the offseason workout rules because they reduce the amount of time that players can work, even if they want to. The restrictions force players who want extra on-field work to get together among themselves, in a place other than the team’s state-of-the-art facilities. It also forces players to risk suffering injuries away from the team facility, which then allows the teams to elect not to pay the players for so-called “non-football injuries.”

Still, the negotiations that culminated in a new labor deal four years ago tried to strike the balance between giving the players down time and reduced practice intensity while also allowing them to get ready for the season. Coupled with restrictions on padded practices in training camp, some teams simply aren’t as ready as their coaches would like them to be when the season starts, resulting in some teams (like Bill Belichick’s Patriots) getting a lot better on the fly.