Earlier this week, the New York Giants’ star running back Saquon Barkley confirmed he would not be attending the team’s ongoing mandatory minicamp. Yesterday, three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, did not report to the Buffalo Bills’ mandatory workouts – but his agent has since said he will be present for the “entirety of minicamp”, and Diggs practised with the team today. The Kansas City Chiefs’ four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, and two-time Super Bowl champion, Chris Jones also did not attend his team’s mandatory minicamp yesterday.
These three players aren’t the first NFL stars to miss their team’s mandatory minicamps, and won’t be the last. But what exactly are minicamps and OTAs – and why aren’t these players there?
What Are OTAs?
OTA stands for ‘organised team activity’ – these are 10-day programs held in spring that involve players and coaches discussing tactics, formations, and the fundamentals of the team’s scheme, before short, and light, practice sessions.
No contact is allowed between the players, but they usually work on positional drills, following which, certain units practice against each other – for example, wide receivers run routes against cornerbacks – before basic 11 versus 11 workouts at a slow speed.
Despite the on-field work, OTAs have more emphasis on helping players through meetings and discussion, as, due to league rules, the teams cannot have the players wear pads, or make contact, during drills.
Attendance at OTAs isn’t mandatory, but, players who want to be invited to training camp in July – and make the final roster – will almost always feature.
What Are Minicamps?
Minicamps are shorter, three-day workouts that teams hold on either side of the OTAs, and just like those training sessions, involve film breakdowns, tactical explanations and non-contact on-field practice. The day before the training begins, teams will ensure every player goes through a physical and medical examination.
However, there are different types of minicamps, unlike OTAs. Rookie minicamp, held before the OTAs, helps a team’s first-year players – from high draft picks to undrafted free agents – to get to grips with NFL playbooks and schemes. Mandatory minicamps are just that, as any player with a contract must attend, to help coaches prepare for the season, or risk being fined – and every team must hold at least one mandatory minicamp in the spring.
The mandatory camps allow every player on the roster to discover where each teammate is physically, get used to any potential change in the offensive or defensive schemes, or see if the individual work they put in during the offseason is already paying off before full-contact practice.
Why Are Certain Players Not Attending?
Even if players know they’ll be fined for skipping their team’s mandatory minicamps, some still choose to stay away for a variety of reasons, and most of the time, those reasons are contract-related.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones didn’t attend the first day of the team’s mandatory minicamp, and people speculate this is because the defensive tackle hasn’t signed an extension, despite entering the final year of his current contract. Saquon Barkley is skipping New York’s minicamp as he wants the Giants to sign him to a new deal.
“As I have previously stated, I’m not looking to set any contract records. I’m not demanding to be the highest-paid player at my position,” said Barkley in a statement.
“My goal is just to be compensated respectfully based on my contributions to the team on the field and in the locker room.
“If at some point there’s a deal that is fair to both sides on the table, I’ll be ready to sign.”
Three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Danielle Hunter didn’t report for the Minnesota Vikings’ mandatory workouts, as after the two couldn’t agree to a new contract, Minnesota received calls from other teams about a potential trade.
And although Stefon Diggs’ minicamp absence was not thought to be contract-related, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott still told reporters he was “very concerned”.
Players skipping minicamps could give fans a sign of what’s to come, as Barkley has even indicated that if he hasn’t signed a new contract before the season, he could sit out the entire year instead of playing under the franchise tag.
With certain players present or not, when minicamps are concluded, there will be no more team activities until late July – when training camp begins, and each team starts its march towards the first game of the 2023 NFL season.
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