As a week of Organized Team Activities come to a conclusion, it’s important to understand what OTAs are, and aren’t.
They are voluntary. But they really aren’t. Players are expected to participate. Plenty of players have specific bonuses tied to participation in the offseason program. Even without a financial inducement to show up, it’s an important aspect of the preparation for the season to come.
Yes, it’s technically voluntary. And plenty of players who stay away have specific business reasons to do so. It’s a way to leverage a new contract now and/or to avoid suffering an injury that would undermine a player’s value.
For players who are going to work out anyway, there’s still a very good reason to participate in the official workout program. If a freak injury happens in the building, the player is protected. It’s basically free insurance against the worst-case scenario. If a player gets injured while working out on his own, he’s most likely out of luck.
Every player has to make his own decision as to whether to participate. For the vast majority, it makes sense to be there. For some, it makes sense to stay away.
For a small handful, the decision to stay away makes little sense. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t there, despite getting a massive new contract — and having every reason to work with a revamped receiving corps. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who presumably hopes to leverage great season into a massive contract, isn’t laying the foundation for that great season by skipping OTAs.
So, yes, it’s voluntary. And, yes, it’s newsworthy when a player doesn’t show up. And, yes, for most players the right call is to be there.