As of now, every NFL team is in the middle of their Organized Team Activity program. Most of these 'activities' involve weightlifting, conditioning, film work and light practices in helmets with no pads.
While it doesn't exactly sound like something that's crucial to success in the regular season, former NFL general manager Jerry Angelo believes it is.
First, it's a the first opportunity for new players (through free agency and the draft) to get a feel for their teammates and coaches, and how they'll be used once the real games begin.
These practices help determine the specific roles for each player and set the tempo for all the new acquisitions, regardless if they are rookies or veterans. The new players get their first taste of what their jobs will be while both meeting and getting a feel for their new coaches and teammates. This is the time of year when players and coaches start coming together as a team to develop chemistry.
The foundation is being laid during this time. If done right, a team will have less transition issues when the season starts, allowing them to focus on mastering their schemes, executing the playbook and teaching the young players the fine details of the NFL game.
This is really key for rookies, who are getting their first taste of an NFL workout is like, as well as hitting the field wearing the helmet of their first professional football team. This helps rookies ease the butterflies out of their stomach they undoubtedly are having while being on the same field as veterans they've often grown up idolizing.
Another thing OTAs are good for is to get a look at veterans and if their skills have deteriorated any.
The goal of these OTAs is for a team to access its personnel, both old and young. You can’t assume your veteran players are the same as their last game. They have to show you each year where they are physically. The old saying, "He’s near the wall or he hit it," comes from the assessment of these older players.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do in OTAs is to establish how this team is going to conduct itself both on and off the field.
This is the perfect time of year to establish protocols and beliefs by making sure that everyone is on the same page and nothing is left to the imagination. The best owners, head coaches and general managers are doing this and doing it consistently well.
People get excited about what’s to come and the challenges that lie ahead. The key is making sure that energy is harnessed and pulled in the same direction.