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Former NFL GMs and QB on Players Skipping OTAs

Former NFL GMs and QB on Players Skipping OTAs

In recent years we have seen more and more veteran players skip OTAs (organized team activities). This year the notable names that are not present for OTAs are: QB Lamar Jackson, QB Kyler Murray, QB Baker Mayfield, WR Deebo Samuel, DE Aaron Donald, WR Diontae Johnson, and WR Terry McLaurin.

While contractually voluntary, there are benefits to being present for these offseason activities when it relates to the teamā€™s success.

Former NFL GMs Mike Tannenbaum and Rick Spielman, along with former NFL QB Rich Gannon spoke with The 33rd Team to weigh in on the topic of skipping OTAs, specifically relating to the QB position.

The main reason that QBs in particular should attend OTAs is to set the tone for the rest of the team. Tannenbaum recalls Bill Parcells declaring the quarterback as the ā€œbattlefield commanderā€ of the team.

There is a trickle-down effect of QBs not being there for OTAs, especially when you are regarded as an unquestioned leader of the team. Tannenbaum explains, ā€œIt sets the standard that everything we do is important.

ā€œItā€™s not about Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson not knowing the plays, but it's more about if theyā€™re there, it is really importantā€

Former NFL QB Rich Gannon understood this trickle-down effect as well. Gannon says, ā€œNot being there is a real detriment to not only the player, but to the team.ā€

Rich Gannon credits a lot of his development as a player to the offseason workouts. Gannon says, ā€œIn my 17-year career I think I made the most improvement in the spring. There were areas of my game that were identified by the coaching staff, and that was an opportunity to have a hands-on experienceā€.

While Tannenbaum, Spielman, and Gannon seem to agree that today more than ever players can prepare in the offseason on their own, there can be concerns about how these players are managed when they are away from the building.

ā€œYou do worry about the amount of throws heā€™s doing. Is his arm going to be ready for training camp? Is he going to have issues with a sore elbow or arm?ā€ Gannon explains. ā€œThere is a certain amount of work that has to go in to get yourself physically and mentally ready for the season and by not being there you jeopardize yourself and your teammates.ā€

So why arenā€™t these star players in attendance for OTAs? Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman explains, ā€œMost of the time if theyā€™re not there itā€™s either because of a contract-related thing, or sometimes if you are trying to trade the player you donā€™t want him on the field too much because god forbid, he could get injured, or something freak happened during an OTA. But I think if they are under contract and you gave them a significant contract, the expectations are to be there.ā€

When asked about the contractual component of offseason workouts, Tannenbaum made note of ā€œminimumsā€ that exist in the NFL CBA:

ā€œEach player shall receive at least the following amounts per day for any workouts or classroom instruction in which he participates pursuant to a Clubā€™s voluntary offseason workout program, provided the player fulfills the Clubā€™s reasonable offseason workout requirements: $235 (2020 League Year), $275 (2021 League Year), $295 (2022ā€“ 23 League Years), $315 (2024ā€“25 League Years), $340 (2026ā€“27 League Years), $365 (2028ā€“29 League Years), and $390 (2030 League Year), respectively. Players are required to complete three out of four scheduled workouts, including any scheduled OTAs, per week in order to be paid for any workout the player completes in that week, except that if there are fewer than four (4) scheduled workouts in a week the player will be paid for each workout in which he participates.ā€ (Article 21, Section 3 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, NFLPA).

During his time in Minnesota Spielman implemented bonuses related to offseason workouts to incentivize attendance:

ā€œPart of the workout bonuses during the offseason was that they had to hit X percentage, and if they hit X percentage, they get $100,000, or $200,000 or whatever it is.ā€

A wealthy veteran player like Aaron Donald would not need this kind of money, but it could matter for a free agent or a rookie.

Despite most players and coaches understanding that the NFL is a business, the cultural impact of players skipping OTAs will be felt going into the season. According to Gannon, ā€œGuys can be resentful, particularly if a guy gets hurt, or a guy comes in and doesnā€™t play well.ā€

It will be interesting to see whether these star players skipping OTAs will truly have an impact on the success of their team as a whole heading into the 2022 NFL season.