It’s OTA time in the NFL, and the team that has undergone the biggest offensive makeover finally gets its chance to put the pieces together in a setting that, if you squint your eyes just right, almost resembles football.
As Mike Klis of the Denver Post explains it, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the team will start their offseason non-practice practices on Monday. They’ll have three sessions this week, three next week, four the following week, and finally a three-day mandatory minicamp starting on June 12.
It’s technically Phase 3 of the offseason program, with 10 OTA sessions. From the CBA: “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.”
The limitations for OTAs aren’t substantially different than they were in past years. In past years, however, teams routinely ignored the rules and allowed live contact on the line of scrimmage, with linemen banging against each other even though they were wearing no pads to protect them from the helmets all players wear. Likewise, bump-and-run coverage was a common occurrence, even though it was expressly prohibited.
While it’s likely that the issue of OTA contact will be more closely policed under the new CBA, the fact remains that each team has up to 90 players who are competing for 53 roster spots. And so the players who are trying to make an impression on the coaching staff may make an impression, literally, on the bodies of their opponents with the crowns of the helmets they’ll be wearing.
So that’s the next step in this new wave of player safety. Will teams ensure that OTAs under the new CBA won’t entail contact, and what will happen if they don’t?