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Los Angeles Lakers Pre-Game Report by Jeff Little

October 26, 2010 1 comment

It’s the season opener for the 2010-2011 Los Angeles Lakers; but before the journey to repeat commences the squad will receive their championship rings for last seasons exploits. This past off-season was the quietest off-season ever for a two-time defending champion in any sport.

The Lakers have no problem with being under the radar with all the pressure being on a certain team that plays in the east. While the majority of the NBA was enamored with a super team being assembled with the three biggest names in free agency landing on the east coast.

The spotlight, scrutiny and high expectations will hover over the Heat all-season and like it or not the move ushered in a new era in the NBA. The super team that Miami is chasing is already assembled and in place on the west coast. However, the purple reign is far from over, but it has improved. The purple and gold didn’t rest on their laurels and stand pat. The two-time defending champion Lakers retooled and are now two deep at every position.

The Additions of veterans Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff and impressive rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter provide a needed mixture of versatility, experience and youth. The Lakers bench was a weakness last year and now should add better outside shooting as well as produce 35+ points per game.

The additions have also extended the careers of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher as well as provide the Lakers with the ability to match up with anyone. Facing the Rockets; the Lakers have to prepare to play two different teams; one with Yao Ming and one without.

It has been widely publicized that Yao will be limited to 24 minutes per game. Yao is a huge presence in the post and will get the majority of his touches in the half-court offense the Lakers have to minimize his impact on this game.

Los Angeles needs to control the tempo and not allow the Rockets to get out and run. It is a must that all five Lakers get back on defense to eliminate transition baskets. Los Angeles will have to do a good job defending the screen and roll as well as rotating out to their three-point shooters. Los Angeles needs to control the boards and play defense without fouling.

It is imperative that the Lakers take care of the ball, limit their turnovers. The Lakers can out-work the Rockets with a combination of excellent ball and player movement.  When the Lakers do a good job of sharing the ball; effectively moving it from the strong to the weak side and moving the defense in the process, they’re tough to beat. The Lakers need to trust their offense and get into a rhythm early. Los Angeles will run their offense through Pau Gasol in the post and he needs to accept the challenge and be much more aggressive.

 

Prediction: Lakers 102 – Rockets 94

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: TNT
  • Houston: TNT

Radio

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
  • Houston: 1140 AM KHTK (Gary Gerould)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Andrew Bynum (Knee) Out
  • Luke Walton (Hamstring) Out
  • Theo Ratliff (Knee) Listed as Day-to-Day

Rockets

  • C Yao Ming (Foot) Listed as Day-to-Day
  • PG Kyle Lowry (Back Spasms) Listed as Day-to-Day

 

Jeff Little is the mid-day host of the Locker Room on the Sports Journey Network.  Based out of Los Angeles, he is also a writer for Laker Nation.

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Stay Out of Lockeroom by Ritchie Owens

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

In the past week, I have seen various female reporters and woman’s groups getting fired up over the decision or lack thereof the NFL made to not punish the Jets for the alleged incident after last weeks loss.  And by no means am I condoning any behaviors that can be conceived as harassment.  The issue, to me, is that she and her colleges should never have been in the locker room in the first place.  After all, even families aren’t allowed in the locker room post-game.

Here’s the solution to the problem, remove ALL reporters from the team locker room and place them in a separate room to do their interviews!  There you go equal access.  Because it’s not about a Woman’s right to go into a Man’s locker room, it’s about the right to have equal access to players regardless of gender. As a former player, I think that it is ridiculous to have to speak to people while you are fresh out of the shower, trying to get dressed, etc…  And let’s be honest, most reporters are only there to interview the same 5 or 6 guys every week anyway.

Contrary to what some reporters, male included, are calling a, “gender neutral area“everyone‘s “work area“.  I say it is not.  A reporter in a locker room is a courtesy not a right.  You do not work for the organization that you cover.  Ask anyone who has every showered in a health club or any other open shower setting if they would mind if a few dozen members of the press could come in get some interviews.  It isn’t a public area.

I remember being in the locker room and feeling very uncomfortable with the fact that there were women (and to a greater extent people with cameras and whatnot) in there while I was showering, and changing.  And yes, I have caught females in the locker room stealing glances or even straight out giggling to someone else.  To be fair, I did not know what they were saying, but the timing was suspicious. Please understand that there are more than just reporters in the locker room, its camera people, sound people and whoever else happens be associated with the production that day for various news agencies that has access to team facilities.

An incident that occurred while I was in the locker room that involved a female (I don‘t know if she was a reporter) showing myself and a couple of teammates a photo of a very well muscled teammate of ours.  Once over our initial shock of this woman who had the audacity to show us this picture and actually ask us if we knew who it was, we promptly reporter her to our public relations staff.   This woman was summarily ejected from the locker room.  To this day, I still don’t know who that woman was.

My whole point, ladies and gentlemen, is this.  It’s not about what is right or wrong.  This isn’t a matter of a woman being denied her rights.  This is a matter of what is proper.  Men aren’t allowed (with good reason) into woman’s locker rooms because is it not proper?  Therefore, women should not be allowed in man’s locker rooms.  Now since we don’t want to deny our sisters equal access to players, all reporters should be made to wait in a designated “interview room”.  I don’t understand what is so hard about that to figure out.

Ritchie Owens is a former Defensive Lineman in the NFL who played for 10 seasons.  He Currently hosts his own show ” Sack Sound with Ritchie Owens” on the Sports Journey Broadcast Network.

Steelers remain unbeaten without Big Ben after beating Titans by Lloyd Vance

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The Steelers (safety Troy Polamalu pictured) continued to show that they are not a one-man gang as they outworked the Titans in a 19-11 win to stay unbeaten

When the NFL announced that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was going to suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season, there were a ton of people that immediately predicted demise for the league’s cornerstone franchise.  Well everyone that hit the panic button, you better re-think your thoughts on the Steelers.  With Big Ben only 2 games away, the Steelers have re-emerged as the surprise leader of the AFC North at a perfect 2-0, after a solid thumping of the Tennessee Titans 19-11.

Despite losing backup starter QB Dennis Dixon (left knee injury) in the second quarter, the Steelers stayed the course and played tough blue collar football all-day (ran the ball and played tough D).  Right from the start, the Steelers established themselves against the Titans.  Rookie receiver Antonio Brown scored on an 89-yard kickoff return to open the game, and that play proved to be a catalyst as the Steelers forced seven turnovers (3 INTs and 4 fumble recoveries) on their way to victory.

The seven turnovers were the most allowed by the Titans since 2000 and the Steelers also added four sacks as quarterback Vince Young (7-for-10 for 66 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs and a one fumble lost) was under duress during his time on the field.  After a strong Week 1, V.Y was befuddled and never got in rhythm before Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said he had seen enough and sent in veteran Kerry Collins after Young had his 3rd turnover.

The Steelers defense – ranked in the Top 5 against the run every year since 2004 –also shutdown Tennessee running back Chris Johnson.  Pittsburgh stopped CJ2K’s 100-yard rushing streak at 12 games and the 2009 NFL’s rushing champ finished with just 16 carries for 34 yards — longest carry of the day was 11 yards.  It was the third time the Steelers have held Johnson to less than 100 yards.  In CJ’s defense, he did have an electrifying 75-yard + touchdown run called back on a weak holding penalty.

For most of the game the Steelers were content to protect backup quarterback Charlie Batch – expect the team to bring back QB Byron Leftwich who was cut earlier — by running last week’s hero RB Rashard Mendenhall (69 yards on 23 carries) and letting the Titans turn the ball over.  The player of the game for the Steelers had to be former Defensive MVP LB James Harrison, who had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one too.  Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the win, “You come into a hostile environment versus good people it’s going to require a lot. We were far from perfect today but the guys really hung together and gave an outstanding effort”. 

The charismatic head coach added, “We made enough plays in enough areas to get out of there. I like what the team is doing in terms of working together, fighting the adversity and uplifting each other.”  Tennessee did try to make it interesting at the end of the game by scoring a late touchdown — 58 seconds left in game – and a two-point conversion plus recovering an onside kick.  But in the end, the Steelers stayed tough and finished the job.

Next up the Big Ben-less Steelers are the surprisingly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) in a game where someone’s “0” has got to go.  Other 2-0 teams after two weeks of play are the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, and Miami Dolphins.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

My View from the Washington Redskins Press Box by Lake Lewis

Optimism is all that any Washington Redskins’ fan can ever hope for after a horrid 2009 football campaign. Last season contained former Redskins head coach Jim Zorn — now Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach — routinely questioned by fans and the media for his coaching tactics.  Former starting quarterback Jason Campbell’s leadership was questioned and many debated if he even was a legitimate playoff caliber signal caller.  And lastly, the ‘Skins defense was often criticized for not playing in a free-flowing attacking style. 

Well, the 2010 season has brought eternal hope for all around our Nation’s Capital.  And if last night’s Redskins preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills was any indicator, then the new season should bring a sort of giddiness seldom bestowed on this franchise over the last decade. The Redskins came out and imposed their will on the Buffalo Bills in route to a 42-17 alley-slapping.

In the Redskins’ preseason opening win, the three most important off-season acquisitions, in my opinion, of Head Coach Mike Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and Quarterback Donovan McNabb did not disappoint in their burgundy and gold debuts – BTW: I didn’t count General Manager Bruce Allen as he joined the team at the end of the 2009 season. 

After a shaky first series, the Redskins’ offense -– 2009 NFL rankings of 22nd in total offense and 26th in scoring — showed signs of life.  On their second possession, the new look offense led by McNabb orchestrated a twelve play, 70-yard, drive culminating with the former All-Pro passer connecting with first-year player Anthony Armstrong on a four-yard touchdown strike.  The touchdown pass showed that finally the Redskins seem to have the most important position on the field covered. 

McNabb’s improvisation skills were on full display on the touchdown play as he showed foot movement and presence in the pocket.  The former Philadelphia Eagles starter kept the play alive by moving around to find his receiver despite some pressure from the Bills.  Overall, McNabb who took the snap from center 17 times — was scheduled to take only 18 snaps actually — completed five of eight passes for 58 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. The former 6-time Pro Bowl player also turned in a more than respectable 124.0 quarterback rating for the game.

In his postgame presser, McNabb said that he felt good after having played his first game with the Redskins.  The new leader of Washington’s offense said, “It was an exciting time.  When you play your first game, obviously, with a new ball club it takes you back to the first game you played.”  The 12-year veteran added, “Your adrenaline is high and you have to settle down a little bit.  The second time we went out, after our first drive, it led us putting up some points.  Then good things happen.  There are a lot of things we have to work on but I thought offensively we were able to progress today.”

The strong performance of the Redskins did not stop at McNabb’s doorstep.  Back-up quarterback Rex Grossman, a former Super Bowl lead guy in Chicago, may have helped ease any discord about who will replace #5 should he have any kind of setback.  Grossman showed complete command of the Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which he was already familiar with from having been coached by the younger Shanahan last year with the Houston Texans.  For the game, Grossman played two quarters while completing eleven passes for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns. The former Florida Gators passer also finished with a great quarterback rating too (122.5).

One of the recipients of Grossman’s two touchdown passes was gifted receiver Devin Thomas.  The former Michigan State receiver had recently been under intense scrutiny for his participation in a music video with R&B star Fantasia.  But he rebounded to have a nice game as he pulled-in three catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.  Some people, who I talked to during the game, thought that Thomas should be bypassing any outside distractions and just focusing on football. 

However Thomas showed why he was a top-rated receiver prospect on many boards back during the 2008 draft.  Yesterday’s game could be the confidence booster for Shanahan’s offense and the third-year pro that the Redskins have been looking for.  After briefly talking to Thomas after the game, I can safely say there is not a more engaging player who knows exactly what is expected of him in the locker room.  I truly expect a breakout year for the developing receiver and for Thomas to also be the starter opposite veteran Santana Moss come opening day.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were some things from the game that I believe need to be corrected including over-pursuit and poor tackling.  But for the most part, new defensive coordinator Jim Hasslet’s unit showed the attacking style that most Washington fans have longed for since the departure of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.  The other major off-season drama, the Albert Haynesworth situation, also definitely seems to have been put to bed.  The $100-million dollar man started his long climb back up the depth charts and ‘Skins Nation’s hearts by playing a solid game.  Haynesworth entered the game in the second quarter, with the second unit, and although he did not record a sack or a tackle, his presence helped several players.

Redskins Game Notes:

First-year players who made an impact on the game were:

— LB Perry Riley who played well and was credited with a tackle for a loss.

— WR Anthony Armstrong caught his and Donovan McNabb’s first touchdown as Redskins.

— RB Keiland Williams showed that he could possibly breakthrough an already crowded backfield to make the final roster.

— CB Ramzee Robinson made several special teams gems.  And as always this is what separates young players who make NFL rosters.

— WR Brandon Banks showed the 4.2 speed that has caught the eye of many around the NFL.  Banks did not waste any time as he returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown.  His effort should help add greater debate about getting the young speedster more opportunities.

— RB Ryan Torain was impressive with 17 rushes for 62 yards.

— Former Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley looked comfortable working with McNabb as he produced 3 catches for 33 yards.

— CB DeAngelo Hall had a nice interception, which he returned for 33 yards.

 

Lake Lewis is the head of the Sports Journey Broadcast Network and their daily drive-time radio host.  He also is a credentialed member of the media by the NBA, Washington Redskins, and Baltimore Ravens.

Oakland Raiders’ Offensive Success Starts Up Front by Jeff Little

Training camp has begun for the Oakland Raiders. The silver and black are working hard preparing for a successful 2010 season. The Raiders had one of the best offseasons in recent memory. The offseason has provided the team with much-needed momentum. Two of the bigger acquisitions for Oakland were offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and quarterback Jason Campbell.

These are just two of the many additions brought in to upgrade the offense that ranked 31st in the league and scored 17 touchdowns. The NFL is a passing league and the Raiders ranked 29th out of 32 teams; only the Jets and Browns had fewer completed passes.

The Raiders ranked 21st in the league rushing in 2009, posting seven rushing touchdowns and allowing 49 sacks.

A significant amount of the blame for the above-mentioned rankings needs to be placed on JR’s doorstep. JaMarcus was a man who never got it. He seemed to be more taken with “purple drank” than he was at improving as a football player. The Raider offense will improve with a renewed commitment to the running game and an improved passing game with Jason Campbell at the helm.

Offensive improvement always starts up front with the offensive line.

A successful offensive line needs to be based upon having talented athletes and providing them with solid coaching. Tom Cable is a solid offensive line coach. There are coaches who teach the scheme and coaches who teach technique. Cable learned from Alex Gibbs, who taught both.

For those who do not know, Alex Gibbs is seen as the godfather of the zone blocking scheme when he coached the Raiders offensive line in 1988-1989. Wherever he goes, that team is successful offensively. Oakland’s road to redemption starts behind the five guys entrusted to move the crowd.

The Raiders have completed the walk-through version of training camp that head coach Tom Cable calls “learning intensive” sessions. The Raiders are focusing on fundamentals. The zone blocking scheme is widely used and highly successful. The zone blocking scheme creates a called “hole” to run in.

Zone blocking in the running game usually relies on technique, as well as smaller, more athletic lineman sacrificing size for mobility and runners committed to the one-cut-and-go system. The majority of the running plays, due to the movement of the linemen, always have the appearance of a stretch play to the weak or strong side of the formation.

The center, guard, tackle, tight end, and fullback work in unison to combination block an area with an emphasis on double-teaming a few defensive linemen, first or second level threats at the point of attack. The double-team block will provide movement at the line of scrimmage as well as cut back lane for the runner. Getting movement is the key.

Typically people think of the levels as first level—defensive line, second level—linebackers, and third level—secondary, as you will see in your game day program. The reality is that things are a little different on the field.

Facing a 3-4 defensive front, for example, causes a lot of confusion for offensive linemen. A blitz or pressure can come from several different players. It is all about threat level the linemen need to be able to read the defense and never leave a first level threat unblocked. A defensive lineman, linebacker, or defensive back could be a first level threat.

The Raiders will face 10 opponents that utilize a 3-4 defensive front as their base defense. Oakland will put the pads on August 2. The competition to be one of the starting five or depth begins. The guys who will receive snaps on the first-team are as follows:

LT Mario Henderson, LG Robert Gallery, C Samson Satele, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Langston Walker.

Depth: (T-G) Khalif Barnes, (T) Erik Pears, (C) Chris Morris, (G) Brandon Rodd

New Additions: (G-T) Bruce Campbell, (T) Jared Veldheer, (G) Daniel Loper, (G) Allen Smith, (T) Elliot Vallejo, (G) Alex Parsons

The Raiders best lineman, Robert Gallery, returns healthy after only playing in six games last year due to a series of injuries. In Gallery’s absence came Henderson, who had a decent start faded down the stretch.

Cooper Carlisle’s performance has dropped off over the last two years and competition at right guard is required. Langston Walker returns as the surprise starter at right tackle. Cornell Green has left the building. He will be “false-starting” in Buffalo in 2010. Samson Satele was slow to adjust to the zone blocking scheme, but came on late.

The smartest thing is that there will be competition at every position. The battle for playing time on the offensive line will provide some of the best positional battles of training camp. The best possible scenario for this group in five parts:

1) No serious injuries or games missed, with substantial success and growth as a unit.

2) Robert Gallery not missing a game.

3) Rookies Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell rapidly getting up to speed, making an immediate impact, and challenging for playing time at left tackle and right guard.

4) Langston Walker showing improvement as a run blocker while continuing to be solid as a pass blocker.

5) A few unexpected lineman playing well and challenging for playing time such as Daniel Loper, Allen Smith, or Elliott Vallejo.

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Player Misconduct by Lloyd Vance

Leading up to 2010 NFL Training Camps there have been too many stories of player misconduct.  Recently Green Bay Packers DL Johnny Jolly (pictured) was suspended for the season by the league for drug charges

Hard to believe 3 years after NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell instituted a Player Conduct policy that gave him much latitude in its application, we are still talking about players putting themselves in bad situations.  Sure the majority of the NFL’s over 1500 players are good up-standing types, but since the Super Bowl ended in February there has been a steady stream of player misconduct that has fans, media, and league officials concerned about a pattern. 

And to make matters worse, now the players involved seem to be more “high profile”.  No longer is everyone talking about the misdeeds of a 2nd string nickelback (i.e. Adam “Pacman” Jones), now quarterbacks who are the league and franchise’s faces are producing negative front-page news too, that may have implications going into the 2010 NFL season. 

Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick (a shooting occurring after his 30th B-Day Party), Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Bar hopping gone array in Milledgeville, GA), Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (misdemeanor assault citation after allegedly punching a guy in a strip club for an upside down hook’em Horns sign), Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms (arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City), former Oakland Raiders QB / 2008 NFL Draft first overall pick JaMarcus Russell (arrested for illegal possession of Codeine to allegedly produce a drink called “The Sizzurp”) and too many others. 

The situation that Roethlisberger got himself into was most distressing to Goodell and everyone else as he is the marquee player of one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises.  Though eventually the authorities in Georgia decided to not press charges for sexual assault against Big Ben, the salacious details and accusations, including the showing of taped interviews with the alleged victim, will follow Roethlisberger, the Steelers and NFL for a long time. 

The former 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has been suspended for the first 6 games of the 2010 Season, but it is looking like his early summer good behavior could have his suspension lowered to 4 games instead.  However good behavior by Roethlisberger and the NFL’s other bad boys withstanding, it will be interesting in CBA negotiations if NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith wants to call Goodell and his sometimes heavy-handed administration of the Player Conduct Policy to task.  Because you know the league will counter with tales of how disorderly players have taken signing bonuses and other guaranteed money and not lived-up to their end of the bargain.

Hopefully now that training camps have begun (Cleveland Browns rookies reported on July 23rd) player misconduct will be tempered as fans and media should be looking forward to the action on the gridiron rather than NFL players on the police blotter.

2010 Player Misconduct Suspensions

  • Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 6-game suspension (Player Conduct – two sexually related incidents) — Out until at least Week 8 vs. New Orleans, but could be shortened to 4-games based on league review
  • San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, 3-game suspension (Player Conduct – Multiple DUIs) — Out until Week 4 vs. Arizona
  • Atlanta Falcons OT Quinn Ojinnaka, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Domestic Violence) — Out until Week 2 vs. Arizona
  • Seattle Seahawks LB Leroy Hill, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Drug Charge) — Out until Week 2 at Denver (also their could be an additional suspension coming for Player Conduct – Domestic Violence)
  • Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly, indefinite suspension with the minimum for all of the 2010 season (Player Conduct – Drug Charge)
  • Free Agent WR Plaxico Burress, indefinite suspension (gun charges) that will end once he is released from prison

*** It should also be noted that when a player serves a suspension, he does not get paid and misses out on game checks.

Other possible misconduct violations

  • Miami Dolphins DE Phillip Merling – Domestic Violence
  • Cleveland Browns DT Shaun Rodgers – Carrrying a weapon into the airport
  • Atlanta Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux – Drug Chrages
  • Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – Assault
  • Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – Citation for Assault
  • Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick — Possible probation violation from a shooting that occurred after his 30th B-Day Party
  • Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms — Arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City
  • Free Agent QB JaMarcus Russell – Drug Charges

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

It is OTA time around the NFL by Lloyd Vance

If you can believe it… NFL teams, including rookies and veterans (Bucs QB Josh Freeman pictured), will soon be back to work as OTA’s take place

The time between the end of the draft in April and the start of training camp in July is supposed to be a quiet time in the National Football League (NFL).  Coaches and players are supposed to recharge their batteries during the months of May and June in anticipation of a hot tough training camp.  However the quietness of these months has since past as a new and overused term “OTA” has crept into NFL teams’ vocabulary.

OTA stands for “Organized Team Activities”.  It is a term that was created in the legal jargon of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to keep a close eye on team’s off-season preparations before training camp.  Much like the NCAA’s rules around “practices” in the spring, the NFL has tried to define a strict code of who can practice, what types of drills can be run, voluntary/mandatory attendance and the amount of contact in OTA’s. Rules around these activities are strict enough that teams can get themselves in hot water easily, if violations are found.  The Philadelphia Eagles in the spring of 2005 lost a week of activities for the simple violation of reportedly several players showing up to train before the official off-season start date the club had sent to the league.

NFL Teams may differ on X’s and O’s, however they all can agree that OTA’s are essential to building the foundation of a winning cohesive football team.  Many times when I talk to players and coaches during the crucial season ending playoff-stretch months of November and December, they point to OTA’s and training camp as keys where everyone got on the same page.  Most OTA sessions are in clandestine settings with players, coaches, and a few members of the media allowed to watch.  But with everyone’s year around fascination with the NFL exploding, OTA’s have become big news even though it is just players running around in helmets, t-shirts, and shorts. 

Key areas to keep in mind when talking OTA’s

Are sessions voluntary?? – Some head coaches may have as many as 14 OTA’s during the NFL’s “down period”, but all of them cannot be mandatory.  In the “Good Old Days” of legendary coaches George Allen and Vince Lombardi, there was never the term “voluntary” in their vocabulary.  Players knew they better be at every practice in or out of season if they wanted a job.  But with today’s modern athletes of the NFL – many of whom make more money than their coaches – some them don’t respect the coach enough to attend all OTA’s whether the coach wants them to or not.  So head coaches walk a thin line when it comes to “voluntary” OTA’s.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid recently said after the Eagles post-draft mini-camp, “This is not a mandatory camp coming up, these are OTA’s, and players have the option of being here or not being here”… Sure they do coach.  Don’t be fooled most coaches subscribe to the thought what happens in June usually has a distinct affect on training camp and into the season.

Contract incentives and fines are used to improve attendance — Most teams use contract incentives (ex.  Attend “X” number of OTA sessions and receive a bonus of “X” dollars) as a way to make players attend OTA’s.  But every year there are holdout type players that won’t attend OTA’s for one reason or another, usually contract squabbles.  Fines are another tactic used by teams to motivate players to attend mandatory OTA’s.  The catch with fines is they are only affective if a player is currently under contract. But when you are talking about thousands to a guy with a multi-million dollar contract, sometimes fines don’t work either.  Sometimes when push comes to shove, some players will show-up to OTA’s just to avoid fines.  But players and their agents have even found injury loopholes, like a mysterious “pulled hamstring”.  Teams really don’t have much leverage in terms of player holdout fines until training camp when fines can pile-up at a cost of $14,000 or more per missed day.

Potential OTA Holdouts

Rams FS O.J. Atogwe (unsigned restricted F\A)

Saints OT Jamal Brown

Saints OT Jermon Bushrod

Cowboys WR Patrick Crayton

Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett

Broncos DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil

Browns safety Abe Elam

Ravens OT Jared Gaither

NY Jets LB David Harris

Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth

Browns LB D’Qwell Jackson

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson

Titans RB Chris Johnson

NY Jets center Nick Mangold

Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis

Chargers LB Shawne Merriman

Redskins LB Rocky McIntosh

NY Jets CB Darrelle Revis

Titans TE Bo Scaife

Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley

Rookie Participation is affected by some colleges – There is a long-standing controversial rule between the NCAA and NFL that stipulates rookies cannot participate in more than one mini-camp before their college class has finished for the Spring Semester.  The rule was put in place years ago in an attempt to keep kids in school and progressing towards graduation even if they intended to go to the NFL. But in today’s NFL, the rule is total non-sense as most drafted players have left their universities months – usually in January after Bowl Games — before the NFL Draft in April to prepare or they have no intention of graduating as they are underclassmen.  The rule usually affects players from larger school that start and end their spring semesters late (Ohio State and UCLA don’t end until June) causing some players from these programs to get a late start as rookies. .  With 80-man roster limits, competition is everywhere so, in my opinion, rookie players drafted or undrafted should be allowed to hit the practice field as soon as they are officially part of an NFL team.

How much contact is allowed?? – The CBA says, “No contact is allowed anytime (during OTA’s).”  But we all know coaches and teams will push the envelope.  Almost all practices are no pads, but there is always jostling and pushing as teams try to figure out who is close to mid-season form.  But the amount of contact can have repercussions as seen a couple of years ago when three clubs were penalized for OTA violations (Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, and Detroit Lions). 

Remaining OTA Dates

ARIZONA —            May 18-20, May 25-27, June 1-4, June 7-10 

ATLANTA —           May 25-27, June 1, June 3-4, June 8-11, June 15-18

BALTIMORE —       May 17-20, May 24-27, June 7-10, June 15-16             

BUFFALO —            May 25-27, June 1-3, June 4-6 (voluntary), June 8-10, June 15-17, June 21-22, June 23-25

CAROLINA —         May 24-27, June 2-4, June 7-10, June 14-16

CHICAGO —            May 21-23, June 2-3, Jun 7-10, June 14-17, June 21-24

CINCINNATI —       May 11, May 13, May 18-20, May 25, May 27, June 1-3, June 8, June 10, June 14, June 15-17

CLEVELAND —       May 17-19, May 24-25, May 27, June 1-3, June 7-8, June 10-12

DALLAS  —             May 17-19, May 24-26, June 1-3, June 8-10, June 11-13

DENVER —             May 17-19, May 24-27, June 2-4, June 7-9, June 11-13

DETROIT —             May 13, May 18, May 20, May 24-25, May 27, June 1, June 3, June 21-22, June 23-25

GREEN BAY —        May 17-20, June 1-3, June 8-10, June 15-17, June 21-23

HOUSTON —          May 17-20, May 24-27, June 1-3, June 8-10  June 14-16

INDIANAPOLIS —  May 18, May 20, May 25, May 27, June 1-2, June 4-6, June 8, June 10-11

JACKSONVILLE —  May 17-18, May 20, May 24-25, May 27, June 7-8, June 10, June 14-15, June 17, June 21-22           

KANSAS CITY —     May 17-19, May 24-25, May 27, June 1-3, June 7-9, June 14-15, June 11-13

MIAMI —                May 18-19, May 25-26, May 28-30, June 1, June 3, June 7, June 9-10, June 14, June 16     

MINNESOTA —      May 18-21, May 24-27, June 1-4, June 7-8, June 11-13

NEW ENGLAND — May 24-27, June 1-4, June 7-8, June 10-11, June 15-17

NEW ORLEANS — May 25-28, June 7-10, June 14-17, June 4-6

NEW YORK GIANTS — May 18, May 20-21, May 24-25, May 27, June 2, June 4, June 7-8, June 10-11, June 15-17

NEW YORK JETS —  May 17-18, May 20, May 24-25, May 27, June 2-3, June 8, June 10, June 14-16

OAKLAND —          May 18-20, May 25-27 June 8-10, June 15-17              

PHILADELPHIA —  May 19-20, May 24-27, June 1-4, June 7-10 

PITTSBURGH —      May 18-20, May 25-27, June 1-3, June 8-10 

ST. LOUIS —            May 18, May 20, May 24-25, May 27, June 1-3, June 7-8, June 14-17, June 10-12 

SAN DIEGO —        May 18-21, May 26-28, June 8-11, June 14-17             

SAN FRANCISCO — May 17-20, June 7-8, June 10-11, June 14-16, June 18-20

SEATTLE —              May 17, May 19, May 24-27, June 8, June 10, June 15, June 17, June 22-24 (voluntary)

TAMPA BAY —       May 17-19, June 1-3, June 7-10, June 14-17, June 21-23

TENNESSEE —        May 18-19, May 25, May 27, June 14-15, June 17, June 22, June 24-25 

WASHINGTON —  May 17-19, May 24-26, June 1-3, June 7-8, June 10-11, June 16-18   

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)