The Cincinnati Bengals will open the third phase of their offseason training program on Tuesday; the first of ten OTA practices, covering three weeks with the fourth being a mandatory minicamp. Players will gather every week through June 13, with the following schedule:
OTA: May 21-23, May 28-30, June 3-6
Mandatory: June 11-13
First thing we should take note with OTAs is that no live contact is allowed, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. On-field practices can last no longer than two hours, though players can train for six (workouts, film, study, instruction, on-field work). Don't expect Oklahoma Drills, or significant 11-on-11 team drills that includes violence. Before providing the overall rules set forth by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a few thoughts:
- Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert will have their first opportunity to play catch with their starting quarterback Andy Dalton. We'll also get a preview on how the team will effectively use Eifert with Jermaine Gresham. We're not likely to see rotational projections for Bernard with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, considering OTA sessions are rarely expansive enough to be situational.
- Expect the Bengals to experiment with the offensive line. Andrew Whitworth will not be expected to participate during offseason workouts this year, recovering from a knee operation several months ago. Cincinnati will have another look at their newest offensive tackle Reid Fragel, along with Tanner Hawkinson rotating with Anthony Collins and Dennis Roland.
- Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick's recovery also opens the door for guys like Brandon Ghee and Shaun Prater to receive more attention. Customarily younger players that need to prove themselves will have their opportunities -- especially since the emphasis for OTAs is to provide more conditioning, schooling and instruction. With Kirkpatrick, already locked into the 53-man roster provided he's healthy, out for a period of time, these younger cornerbacks will receive that attention. Veteran cornerback Leon Hall will also be out this week with ligament damage in his thumb.
- Who will line-up as the starting strong safety? Shawn Williams appears to be the favorite, but we're looking forward to some competition and younger players making a name for themselves. Plus if the rookie minicamp was any indication, Williams needs as much work as humanly possible.
- Margus Hunt against veteran offensive linemen. Go.
- James Harrison will take part in his first on-field work in a Bengals uniform. This will be slightly unnerving at first, but we'll get over it within a millisecond.
- Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has told reporters that he feels good and that he's expected to participate this week. It'll be interesting (as much as an OTA can be interesting) to see how Sanu, Marvin Jones and Andrew Hawkins lineup on the field with Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green.
Per Article 21, Section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement:
- Teams may conduct a maximum of three days of OTAs during each of the first two weeks.
- A maximum of four days of OTAs may be conducted during either the third week or the fourth week of Phase Three, with the Mandatory Veteran Minicamp (Article 22, Section 2) to be held during the other week.
- During weeks in which the Club conducts only three days of OTAs, the Club may also conduct a fourth day of non-OTA workouts, but such activities shall be subject to the rules governing Phase Two workouts:
- On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills, but no contact or offense vs. defense team drills.
- Players are not allowed to wear helmets.
- During Phase Three, all coaches shall be allowed on the field. No live contact is permitted. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted).
- Special teams drills (e.g., kicking team vs. return team) are permitted, provided no live contact occurs.
- Team offense vs. team defense drills, including all drills listed in Appendix G to this Agreement, are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Clubs may require players to wear helmets; no shells are permit ted during Phase Three of the Club's offseason workout program or any minicamp.
Appendix G states:
Except for certain specified minicamps, any offseason workout programs or classroom instruction shall be strictly voluntary. No Club official shall indicate to a player that the Club's offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary (or that a player's failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in the player's failure to make the Club or any other adverse consequences). Offseason programs may take place for nine weeks. Workouts shall be limited to four days per week; such workout programs are not permitted on weekends. The nine weeks may include no more than ten days of organized team practice activity. This does not preclude any player from working out on his own on other days, including weekends. Contact work (e.g., "live" blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and run), is expressly prohibited in all offseason workouts.
Voluntary offseason workout programs are intended to provide training, teaching and physical conditioning for players. The intensity and tempo of drills should be at a level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority, and not at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player.
Teams are to provide their players and the NFL the schedule for the program, including designation of any days on which organized team practice activity will take place, pursuant to the rules set forth in Article 21 and any changes to the schedule for the program.
The following rules shall also apply to the ten days of organized team practice activity:
No pads except protective knee or elbow pads. Helmets are permitted.
- All organized team practice activity shall be conducted pursuant to the rules for Phase Three activities, which are set forth in Article 21, Section 2(b)(iii) of this Agreement.
- No live contact; no live contact drills between offensive and defensive linemen.
- 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and l 1-on-11 drills will be permitted, providing no live contact takes place.
- The NFL will monitor all Clubs during the offseason to ensure player safety and adherence to live contact guidelines.
- Maximum six hours per day, with a maximum two hours on field, for any player.