What to expect from OTAs

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
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(Editor's note: ESPNBoston.com contributor Field Yates, a former staffer for the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, relays a first-hand perspective on organized team activities.)

The Patriots will begin the first of a series of organized team activities on Monday, and it is expected that much of the team will be in attendance.

It’s the first opportunity during the 2012 offseason for all members of the team to participate in on-field activities with the coaching staff, and affords rookies and veteran additions the chance to further assimilate themselves with their new team.

Coaches and players alike generally look forward to OTAs, if for nothing else than the opportunity to step back on the field and turn the page toward a new season.

It’s unclear what will be made of the OTAs (media has access to only a select number of the on-field workouts), but one angle to the sessions that is always closely monitored from the outside is attendance.

OTAs are not mandatory, but are a popular event for both players who spend their offseason training in the city that they play in and for those who head elsewhere.

[+] EnlargeWelker
AP Photo/Steven SenneHaving signed his free-agent tender, Wes Welker is expected to participate in the Patriots' OTAs.
Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, who recently signed his franchise tender, has indicated that he will be on the field with his teammates, and will join quarterback Tom Brady, who Mike Reiss noted also will be a participant. It is unclear if veteran guard Brian Waters, who had a history of training near his home in Texas during the offseason in lieu of OTAs when he was with the Chiefs, will attend any of the Patriots' OTAs.

Many players see a benefit in participating in OTAs, as it gives them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the playbook and sufficient repetitions to practice the schemes and concepts they’ll be called upon to master during the season.

From the team’s standpoint, there’s little doubt when it comes to attendance that the more the merrier. That isn’t to say that an absence from one or more of the OTAs precludes an individual player or entire team from success, but teams justifiably prefer that as many players show up as is possible.

I learned first-hand one of the byproducts of perfect attendance during my time with the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2010 offseason.

After finishing the 2009 season with a momentum-building throttling of the Denver Broncos, players were enthused to return to work.

What appeared to be a strong draft and free agency period created even more buzz, and it showed when we opened our OTAs with perfect attendance. (It should be noted, however, that safety Jarrad Page was not in attendance, although he was not under contract after declining to sign his restricted free agency tender. He was later traded to the Patriots for a draft choice.)

Attendance remained perfect through the conclusion of OTAs, and that played a part in our team continuing the offseason with a strong training camp and subsequently three wins to open the year.

Sharing this anecdote isn’t to suggest that the Patriots will suffer should a player choose not to attend OTAs, as many teams have experienced success after having nonparticipants.

Rather, it’s an example of the benefit of having all hands on deck throughout each step of the offseason. With a reshuffled coaching staff and a bevy of offseason player additions, the Patriots have a bit of a different look in 2012.

As is the case for every NFL team, it’s beneficial to have as many opportunities as possible to gel as a team, and OTAs are an avenue to do that.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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