Starting this Tuesday, the Black and Gold get underway with Organized Team Activities, which is a fancy phrase for “practice.” These workouts are voluntary, but as in previous years under Sean Payton, attendance at OTA’s are expected to be near-100%.
So, what exactly are Organized Team Activities? Basically, it is the first time that the coaches and players can be on a field at the same time practicing. Yes, OTA’s are voluntary, but the standard that Sean Payton has set since he’s been there is to expect everyone to deliver at all levels. There is essentially no off-season any more in the NFL, and Payton sets an extremely high level of accountability.
Yes, it’s a cliché to say that championships are won in the months before the season, but it’s true. I’ve heard that from many Saints players, and they will tell you that these are months, days, and hours you can’t get back if they pass on the opportunity to improve. Look back to two years ago during the lockout, when Drew Brees led the players in their own version of OTA’s. Even during the labor dispute, the players recognized that it was important enough for an eventual season to be in peak shape.
The NFL is more physical than ever, so every day of practice is important. Now, that being said…there is virtually no contact in OTA drills these days, following the newest collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league. Back when Gregg Williams was installing his defense in ’09, you’d actually see some pushing and shoving at OTA’s…but that’s likely a thing of the past. That’s not to say that OTA’s aren’t important, but it’s not as gritty as it used to be. These days, the worst friction you’ll see at OTA’s is harsh language.
Although the hitting may not be there, the competition is still pretty fierce. Rob Ryan will have his first real opportunity to start installing his 3-4 D this Tuesday, and there will be a lot of guys trying to make their mark for their new coach. Position battles will start to take shape on the D side of the ball.