Now that the NFL Draft is history, what football-related action can we look forward to in the coming weeks and months? The Ray Nitschke Field (above) may be empty now, but soon there will be periods of activity upon the part grass-part artificial surface along Armed Forces Drive. Here is the schedule of upcoming mini-camps, or OTA’s, or whatever you want to call them:
May 11-13: Rookie Orientation Camp: This is for all draft choices and undrafted free agents, and others who are invited who are still looking to catch on with a team. They will be oriented to the off-season workout schedule, the playbook, etc.
May 14-21: Off-season Conditioning: Rookies should remain in Green Bay to work on conditioning with the veterans, who will have been doing so for two weeks by this time. Limited on-field action with no helmets, no offense vs. defense, and no one-on-one drills.
May 21-June 11: (OTA’s — Organized Team Activities): This is a 10-session period for rookies. On-field training, offense vs. defense, but no individual pass rush or pass-coverage drills. Coaches bring new elements to the playbook and get the rookies up to the veterans’ knowledge level of the system. Helmets allowed in these sessions.
June 12-14: Mandatory Mini-Camp: All players (rookies and veterans) are required to attend. Same activities as OTA’s, but includes some two-a-day practices. No contact in any of the off-season programs.
June 14-July 24: Mandatory Off-Time. No team activities allowed. Players work out on their own; coaches take vacations.
July 24: Annual Shareholders Meeting. A capacity crowd is expected with all of the new shareholders from the 2011 stock sale.
July 25: Players report to Green Bay for Training Camp. Physicals conducted and the players are made ready for the long haul ahead.
July 26: Training Camp practices Begin. The full camp schedule has not been released.
What is noticeable this year is the reduction of practice time (which also will be enforced in Training Camp), and the lack of contact in practices. This all came from the recent labor negotiations, and is also part of the whole safety issue that is sweeping the sport. On the fan level, all this really means is that there will be fewer practices to see during Training Camp, if that is part of your summer vacation. The word we’ve received so far is that many or most of the night practices may be eliminated as well. Stay tuned.