With phase 3 of the 2021 NFL offseason beginning today, teams turn their focus away from rookie minicamps into OTA’s. So, what exactly is an OTA, and how is it different from other offseason activities?
Ahead of this year’s offseason, some changes were made to the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). According to the agreement, the offseason is scheduled so that it stretches for 9 months, and is divided into 3 phases.
- 1st phase – April 19th to May 14th
- 2nd phase – May 17th to May 21st
- 3rd phase – May 24th to June 18th
The start of phase 3 indicates that OTA’s and minicamp will commence. However, what exactly is the difference between the 2?
What Does OTA Mean In Football?
In the NFL, ‘OTA’ refers to Organized Team Activities, which consist just one section of a team’s preparations for the coming season. During OTA’s, teams will generally get their 90-man practice roster together for the first time.
The 2021 NFL OTA’s will stretch for a maximum of 10 days, and will involve regular offseason preparation activities. For example, players will train on-field, attend meetings, and study film.
Teams will be allowed keep players on the field for no longer than 2 hours each day, and the entire day’s practice can stretch to a maximum of 6 hours.
One of the main features of OTA’s is that the main participants are not regular starters. Veterans and rookies looking to secure a roster spot will be the ones trying to showcase their skills and knowledge of the playbook.
Players are permitted to wear helmets during drills, but pads and contact activities are not allowed in an attempt to reduce injuries. That being said, players do very often suffer serious non-contact injuries anyways.
Are NFL OTAs Mandatory in 2021?
Another interesting thing about OTAs is that they are voluntary. With the COVID pandemic still creating problems, the NFLPA has come out strongly against all in-person voluntary activities, pushing for them to instead be virtual as they were last year.
Obviously, this is a clear difference between OTAs and minicamps, which are mandatory. This season we’ll be seeing a lot of stars skipping OTAs and players like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are reportedly holding out for contract reasons.
From the column: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson aren’t expected to report for Phase III today … but that’s not about their individual situations. Seahawks and Packers players are staying away until agreements can be reached on how OTAs look. https://t.co/v1sv6TxsxR
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 24, 2021
Do Players Get Paid in NFL OTAs?
Since the OTAs are voluntary anyways, it makes sense that players do not get directly paid for attending them. However, some players make sure they add a workout bonus in their contract.
Essentially, this means that every time a player trains at the team facility, they earn an extra amount. This is why the NFLPA encouraged players to avoid in-person activities, except those who have workout bonuses.
In the same spirit, a player can obviously not be fined for fined for missing an OTA as they could be if they missed minicamp.