If there is a spare molecule of oxygen, count on the National Football League to consume, package and promote it as the most important element on everyone’s news feed, no matter what time of day or year.
You don’t clear-cut a path to becoming a $ 25 billion industry without burning retinas and monopolizing attention spans. By leaking out the 2022 schedule as if it were the Pentagon Papers. Or framing the unpadded 7-on-7 drills of May as vital to January glory.
Whoever utters something from a podium in the spring is either lying or mixing a tasty but unfulfilling word salad that will leave you craving carbs and the heartier NHL and NBA playoffs.
Headlines on ProFootballTalk.com would have you believe players, coaches and front offices are reinventing conditioning, techniques and schemes like Henry Ford spinning four cylinders into automotive gold.
Predictable bromides range from eye-popping weight gain…
“Justin Herbert Says He’s Getting After It ‘In The Weight Room, Now Weighs 245”
… To revolutionary weight loss:
“Mac Jones Is In The Best Shape Of His Life After Changing His Diet This Offseason ”
Hearing that, Twins regressing servant Miguel Sano says, “Hold my IPA.”
Meanwhile, in Miami, incoming receiver Tyreek Hill was clearly suffering from total Patrick Mahomes amnesia when he declared:
“Tua Tagovailoa Has One Of The Prettiest Balls I’ve Ever Caught”
There are shallow shoutouts to those grizzled veterans voluntarily missing in action, like that inoculated but misunderstood misanthrope in Green Bay:
“Matt LaFleur: Aaron Rodgers Not At OTAs, But In‘ Great Spirits ’”
No water-is-wet banality has gone uncovered in Jacksonville, where the PTSD runs deep months after Urban Meyer was canceled faster than Judas at the bread basket.
“Trevor Lawrence: It’s Fun Having A Group That Communicates Really Well.”
Nothing drives narratives better than the forsaken veteran quarterback getting a fresh start in a new market, like Matt Ryan breathing life again in Indianapolis thanks to his quarterback-whisperer-coach, Frank Reich.
“I Knew He Was A Great Passer, But His Accuracy Is Insane!”
And I’m pretty sure the NFL bans meth, although Carolina’s erstwhile quarterback of the future apparently didn’t get the memo after last season’s total system failure.
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“Sam Darnold Confident He Can Be One Of The Best QBs In The League”
Over in Eagan, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is still guzzling milk and reading flash cards as he learns first-year coach Kevin O’Connell’s new scheme and play-calling language. The Artful Dodger acknowledged everything is different, but not at all, with the tyrant whose name shall never be spoken brooding on his ranch and everything smelling like roses again.
Reporters noted that Dalvin Cook was lining up at the receiver – as he’s done at some point every offseason – and the internet aggregators instantly turned him into Christian McCaffrey, Marshall Faulk, Roger Craig or Walter Payton, depending on your era.
Cat’s totally out of the bag now about the versatility of Minnesota’s offensive superstar, by the way. No doubt LaFleur and his minions in northeast Wisconsin dropped everything they were doing to reimagine how to defend a player who has run receiving routes before, having been in the NFL for all of six years.
Breathe, folks. It is May.
I spent an exhausting 20 minutes Googling the NFL origins of “Organized Team Activities.” Unfortunately, there was no oral history I could find.
Best I can tell, the term oozed into the lexicon sometime in the 1990s as a way to separate voluntary (OTAs) and involuntary (minicamp) workouts.
No doubt a lawyer crafted the term from a corporate handbook and a translated Latin dictionary. The NFL has an army of them.
The 10 weeks of action between the draft in late April and the start of training camp in late July is legislated across 5,000 words and 12 pages among the 456-page collective bargaining agreement between owners and players.
Article 21 breaks it all down in granular detail. I’ll spare you the leaden language. Essentially, teams schedule three phases of in-person meetings, classroom instruction and watered-down field work.
Rules vary among the phases, but generally speaking, live contact is prohibited. No one-on-one position drills. Players may be required to wear helmets, but without pads. No blocking or tackling, either. They line up 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11.
There are JUGGS Machines to spit out balls, blocking pads and dummies. Coaches may or may not be able to talk, yell, shame or teach players depending on what day of the week it is.
For a sport that wraps itself in free-market greed, Old Glory and American Exceptionalism, there is certainly no shortage of heavy-handed regulation or corporate socialism in the NFL welfare state.
Nothing, of course, that would stem the ocean of content and vows of contention flowing from team facilities across the land.
Face it, folks. We are a nation of football addicts. The pushers on Park Avenue know it. The other leagues know it. And no matter what the calendar says, the NFL will be top of mind 24/7/365, from free agency and draft buildup / autopsy to offseason workouts and training camp.
So much blather through which to sift before what truly matters kicks off Sept. 8.
Enjoy the junk food. Just remember what you’re chowing.