A term that you might hear a lot in the offseason of football, and even during the playoffs, is OTAs.
Coaches love when their players engage in OTAs.
You may even notice that star players partake regularly in OTAs.
Sports commentators also tend to remark on whether a specific player participated in OTAs or not.
OTAs are proving to be an important part of the NFL, so here’s what you need to know about what they are and how they benefit players.
What Does “OTAs” Stand For?
OTAs stand for organized team activities.
They occur during the offseason and are voluntary.
This wasn’t always the case.
OTAs used to be required—even during the off-season.
However, the NFL and the NFL Players Association reached a compromise allowing players to engage in organized team activities or skip them.
The trade-off was that players had to participate in mandatory mini-camps.
Players who participate regularly in organized team activities are more likely to perform better than others since OTAs provide extra training that can help them play better.
When you see a player struggling, then you might wonder if they participated in their team’s organized team activities during the offseason.
What Happens During OTAS?
Considering organized team activities are voluntary, you might wonder what happens that makes them not important enough to be mandatory.
There are three phases that occur during organized team activities.
While the specific activities may be different for each team, there are a few general things that happen.
Here are some of the things that may happen during a team’s OTAs.
One of the most important ways to ensure that an NFL team is successful is to give the new and old players the chance to spend time together.
Organized team activities provide an opportunity for players to meet each other in a more relaxed environment.
If they were to meet during mini-camp or during the actual season, then things would be a bit more rushed and focused.
There’s less time to get to know each other since the time is primarily spent on drills and honing skills.
Organized team activities bring the team together.
At least, it brings together the team members who show up.
This is a great way for rookies to get some advice from veterans.
It can also help make players who got traded feel a bit more comfortable with their new teammates.
It isn’t just players meeting players either.
It’s a great time for the team to meet any new additions to the staff.
If there was a switch of defensive or offensive coach, for example, this allows the team to meet them before the real work begins.
The reason these types of meetings are important is that they help build camaraderie.
They help the team build a relationship that allows each player to support their teammates.
If a team doesn’t spend much time together, then they likely won’t have as much success on the field.
They lack the chemistry that comes with spending time with and enjoying the company of their peers.
Meetings are a crucial part of organized team activities.
Another important part of organized team activities also occurs during the first phase.
Conditioning is a vital part of the onboarding process.
For rookie players, conditioning helps transition them from college fitness to professional fitness.
While college football is just as intense as professional football, professional football requires a bit more from its players.
Organized team activities can help ensure that a team’s players can make that transition.
This is an important part of phase one because it helps ensure the entire team is on the same level of fitness.
At the very least, it ensures that the players who show up for organized team activities have the same level of fitness.
This can then lead to better performance because everyone is on the same level.
They have the same or similar levels of strength, endurance, and stamina.
Players who skip the conditioning part of organized team activities have to play catch-up.
While their fellow teammates might be in great shape, they might need to work a little harder to get on that level.
This can affect the game because their team might be relying on them to push when they have nothing left.
If they had attended the organized team activities, then they might have had the same level of stamina as their peers, which would have allowed them to keep pushing.
Conditioning also improves an existing player’s fitness.
A veteran may be in great shape, but if they’re older, then they might want to continue to work on their fitness.
Since their body is a bit older, it might take them a bit longer to reach the same level of fitness as younger players.
Conditioning during the offseason through organized team activities can help ensure players stay at their peak performance.
Conditioning is another vital activity that teams do during the first phase of organized team activities.
The final part of phase one is rehab for injured players.
This is another crucial part of organized team activities.
One of the worst things that can happen to a player on the field is an injury.
It puts them out of the game.
If that player was particularly important to the team’s success, then it could impact them for the rest of the season.
The best way to avoid injuries is to maintain a certain level of fitness and to ensure that past injuries are carefully healed.
A large part of the healing process is rehab.
The problem with rehab is that not every player gets the rehab they need in time.
Instead, it may be a more intense version of rehab since the goal is to get the player back on the field as soon as possible.
What ends up happening is that the injury heals enough to get them playing again, but it may not be healed fully.
As a result, the player has a greater chance of becoming injured again.
This is where organized team activities can help.
Instead of rushing an injured player through rehab, this allows players to spend a bit more time building their strength and healing with their team.
It helps the player build up their strength in a more relaxed environment.
Since OTAs occur during the offseason, players have more time to rest and train without pushing themselves too hard.
If the team has several injured players, then they can all rehab together and bond through the experience.
As a result, the players might experience fewer injuries once the season begins.
Rehab for injured players is a final part of phase one that is extremely important for reducing injuries during the regular season.
4. Limited Drills
The second phase of organized team activities usually consists of some form of limited drills.
Each team might have its own version of limited drills.
They might also add other things into the second phase of organized team activities.
Limited drills sometimes mean there isn’t any contact between players.
Instead, the focus is on things like strength and agility training.
A punter and kicker might focus on building their strength and kicking the ball either far or through the goal posts.
A quarterback may work on building their strength and throwing game.
Receivers might perform various exercises and go through several different drills to increase their endurance and agility.
Whatever position they play, the player will likely undergo a drill specifically for that position.
Limited drills help hone a player’s skills.
They might also be one of the reasons why some players choose not to attend organized team activities.
If a player thinks their skills are already honed and perfected, then they don’t see any value in performing the drills.
This can cause some problems.
The first is that since they’re not working on their skills, those skills may become stagnant.
Even the most athletic person needs to condition and train often, and if they don’t, their skills will deteriorate.
When pitted against others, the player may quickly realize that others are fitter than them.
If they had attended organized team activities, then they may have kept their skills sharper.
Another problem is that this creates disharmony between players.
Some players may have better strength and agility than others because they performed limited drills.
On the field, you end up having a mismatch of highly trained players and players who didn’t attend organized team activities.
This can make running some plays difficult because some rely on everyone having the same level of fitness.
Limited drills are an essential part of the second phase of organized team activities.
5. Offensive And Defensive Drills
The final phase of organized team activities pits the offense against the defense for contact drills.
Players practice on each other for the season ahead.
There might be 9 on 7 drills, 11 on 11 drills, or even 7 on 7 drills.
Running these drills is a crucial part of organized team activities because they give players a head start on learning new plays.
This becomes important during the regular season because it helps teams perform plays with better accuracy.
A problem forms when certain players choose not to attend organized team activities.
For example, if the starting quarterback doesn’t attend organized team activities, then it can be difficult to run certain drills.
They might bring in another quarterback who isn’t as familiar with the team as a starter.
In this situation, the backup quarterback ends up learning the new plays well while the starting quarterback has to play catch-up when the regular training season begins.
This causes several problems.
The first is that the starting quarterback won’t be as defined with new plays as the quarterback who spend extra time learning and drilling those plays during the organized team activities.
The secondary quarterback has had more time to commit them to memory.
On the field, this means that the starting quarterback might not perform as well as the backup quarterback.
It also creates a disconnect among the team.
Because the team spent more time with the backup quarterback during organized team activities, they become used to running certain plays or moves with that quarterback.
They learn how they command or throw.
When that quarterback gets switched with one who didn’t attend organized team activities, the team often has to relearn everything since it’s an entirely new quarterback throwing and calling the shots.
Running defensive and offensive drills is another important, and final, phase of organized team activities.
What Are The Benefits Of Attending OTAS?
Clearly, attending organized team activities can give players and teams an advantage.
If some players are still on the fence as to whether they should participate in organized team activities or not, here are a few benefits to consider.
1. Improved Team Camaraderie
One of the most important parts of organized team activities is that it improves camaraderie.
The more time that a team spends training and being together, the better they’re going to perform on the field.
Teams that spend time together often care about each other.
They know how to support each other.
That becomes important on the field when things aren’t looking good.
Players who know how to support each other can help boost bad moods and help keep their teammates’ heads in the game.
A focused team is more able to perform well and win the game.
Having strong team camaraderie also means that players have a better understanding of how each of their teammates plays.
When they understand their teammates better, players can anticipate their moves or ideas.
This then helps them react in a way that can improve the team’s performance.
Finally, better camaraderie makes the game more fun.
If a team has fun playing together, then they’re probably going to perform better.
If a team doesn’t enjoy playing together, then it can create discord and problems.
They might not be able to work together toward a common goal.
Fostering camaraderie is one of the best benefits of organized team activities.
2. Better Fitness
Another benefit that comes out of organized team activities is better fitness.
No matter if the player has an injury or not, organized team activities give players extra time to improve their fitness.
Some players may choose to take the offseason off and do what they want.
They may eat tons of terrible food and go drinking without paying attention to their fitness.
When the regular season training begins, they might find themselves having to catch up to get back to their former fitness level.
By attending organized team activities, players are able to maintain their fitness levels and build on them.
This means that they’ll have better strength and endurance going into the regular season.
For injured players, this means they also have a chance to properly heal and build up their strength properly before playing full-time again.
Organized team activities help players build on their fitness to reach new athletic heights.
3. Head Start On New Plays
A final benefit of attending organized team activities is that it gives teams a head start on learning new plays.
While some teams might choose to wait before introducing new plays, others might take advantage of the extra time.
The more time that a team has to work on plays, the better results they’ll have on the field.
That’s because running those plays can become muscle memory when performed often enough.
Plays being easier to perform means that teams might be more successful at gametime.
Organized team activities, or OTAs, are an important part of NFL training.
However, they’re voluntary and not mandatory except for mini-camps that occur during the third phase of OTAs.
OTAs are beneficial for players who choose to put in the extra work and spend the time getting to know their teammates.