Are OTA’s Overboard Or Right On Target?


My family’s summer vacation calendar is completely dictated by my 17 year old son’s football camp schedule, chasing opportunities for his collegiate and football future.  As the calendar continued to fill with various camps in multiple states, the discussion turned to proper eating, lifting and running in off-season training.  My wife brought up his need to prepare for his high school’s official summer training program or the equivalent of the NFL’s OTA’s or official team activities.

I told them that he did not need to be in top condition to start summer training, but to work his way into shape so that he would be closer to peaking at the end of the summer when “real” football begins.  My younger son asked why that was and I explained that staying in peak physical condition wasn’t sustainable long term, much like boxers or mixed martial arts fighters who go into training camp situations, as do all NFL teams in late July to prepare properly for the long season ahead.

OTA’s have evolved over the years and teams are immersed in them now in mid-June.  It seems as if they are having a lot of them recently, but this is off-set by the much longer off-season for teams not advancing deep into the playoffs.  Teams used to start as early as March 1 with daily lifting, running and routes with receivers and quarterbacks.  There was also some meeting time with coaches to go over film and concepts as well.  It was usually four to five hours of work attended by about 90 percent of players staying in town throughout the off-season and then there were occasional mandatory 3-4 day mini-camps with double day practices in helmets and shoulder pads.

With the evolution of the collective bargaining agreement, formal off-season activities have been pushed back to the middle of April, giving players almost six extra weeks of training on their own or even good old-fashioned rest and relaxation.  The word mini-camp has been replaced with OTA’s and it seems they have reached a pretty good balance now.  I’m sure coaches would like to see their players much earlier in the off-season to work on new things, but truth be told, they have plenty to do in preparation for the NFL combine, free agency and the NFL draft.  Many players are now spending their off time at specialized training facilities working on their strength, speed and flexibility to lengthen and enhance their careers, but get to do it away from the mental and physical stress of actually being at the team’s facility.

The NFLPA (player’s union) will continue to push for less and less mandatory events in the offseason as well as less contact for its members during the regular season as well.  It has been very successful doing this in the last two negotiations of the CBA.  Right now it seems like they are at a pretty good balance of getting in enough work and installation of philosophies/strategies to be properly prepared to go on Day 1 of training camp, while the responsibility of being ready to go physically always lays at the feet of the player since they will be on their own from mid June until camp opens in late July!

About Jeff Carlson

Jeff Carlson

Former NFL quarterback, training youth QB's in Tampa, Florida. Football Analyst for Bright House Sports Network and Football Insiders.