What are NFL OTA’s and how voluntary are they?

The NFL offseason is set to spring in to action within the next week. Teams will open the doors to their facilites for the start of OTA's April 19th


The biggest story in the NFL leading up to the 2021 Draft isn’t Trevor Lawrence. It isn’t the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the first pick and will most likely take the Clemson QB with the top spot. The top story going into the draft day is the NFL OTA’s.

OTA's overtaking headlines weeks before the draft

OTA stands for Organized Team Activity. Essentially a preseason to the preseason. It’s the time in between the draft and training camp that NFL franchises use to get a first glimpse of their upcoming roster. There are no one-on-one drills. No live contact is allowed and the hours spent at the training facilities are limited according to the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).

The opening batch of OTA’s will begin before the NFL Draft on the 29th of April. The first team meetings and workouts will be held ten days before. Facilities will be open, and players will be able to workout.

Facilities will be open for start of NFL OTA's

Last year the format of the OTA’s was changed because of the restrictions put in place due to the Covid outbreak. The offseason programs were carried out virtually, and training camps were delayed.

NFL players are now using last year as a platform to dispute the necessity of on site OTA’s . More than half the leagues teams have players who have announced they will not be participating in the voluntary workouts.

While the OTA’s may be categorized as “voluntary” most players who are not in contract disputes are expected to show up for the first team workouts of the new season. But this year many are taking a stance, and they have the backing of DeMaurice Smith.

Smith defends players who skip OTA's

The Executive Director of the NFLPA told SportCenter: "I think what a lot of players have said that they've heard from their coaches is that they need to show up," Smtih later added. "We've known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up."

The Excutive Director defended the players rights not to attend, "I think it's important for players to make their own decisions, not only as professionals, not only as a way of taking ownership of their own health care, but making their own decision as a man,"

OTA’s might be voluntary, but not showing up has it’s consequences. If you are a fringe players trying to make the cut, obviously showing up to the early season training sessions will only play in your favor. Aside from that, over 200 NFL players have contracts enforcing attendance early season team workouts.