Green Bay Packers OTAs – Good, Bad or Lombardi?

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So are OTAs (Organized Team Activities) really necessary? As we all know, Green Bay Packers bloggers have been known to argue just about any point. I was reminded of this fact today as I briefly checked into my twitter account. (I am trying to avoid twitter during the day so I can make it home and watch my “Tivoed” World Cup games without knowing the scores).

But I decided to take a chance today (no games I was THAT interested in today), and see what’s going on. Well, right off the bat, I run into, say, “a difference of opinion” between Packer blogger extraordinaires Brian Carriveau and Aaron Nagler.

Seems that Aaron is outright questioning the value of OTAs, and Brian felt the need to respond with reasons why he thinks they’re important. Here’s how the discussion went:

Aaron: I have come to the conclusion that OTAs are a total joke. I understand this is not a revolutionary thought. Carry on.
Brian: Give me a break.
Aaron: What is being accomplished? I would love to know.
Brian: Installs, improvements, schemes, reps, fixes, shall I go on.
Aaron: All of which could be done in training camp.
Midwestfan: Did they have/enforce these dumb OTA rules when Lombardi was coaching? I’m thinking, no.
Aaron: They didn’t have OTAs. For a reason.
Brian:  Strength & conditioning, camaraderie, technique, situational work, review from last season…more things accomplished in OTAs
Aaron: # OTAs are a babysitting service.
Brian: This is the pros, not high school anymore. Install in spring & don’t have to in fall.
Aaron: Exactly. It’s called MiniCamp. 3 weeks of running around in shorts is absurd.
Brian: If you take the attitude it’s “running around,” yup, that’s what you’ll get out of it.
Aaron: Teams make it seem like they are splitting the atom – it’s football. You need Minicamp and training camp.
Brian: If I’m a player or a coach, I want to work for an organization that strives to get better every day. That’s OTAs.
Aaron:  If all those thing you list are so important, how do the Vikings have a ton of veterans skip OTAs, have their starting QB show up in late August and still get to the NFC Championship game? That’s impossible! OTAs are so important! (rolls eyes)
Aaron: You can strive to get better without being corralled unnecessarily in the spring and summer.
Brian: Again, if you take the attitude you’re being corralled & it’s unnecessary, that’s exactly what you’ll get out of it.
Aaron: You want to dictate attitudes, which is impossible and kind of proves my point. You’re babysitting.
Brian: Nope, I want to foster a community of teamwork & work ethic & goal setting
Aaron:  So have a rookie camp and then a mini camp. 3 weeks of otas is asinine.

I was following along innocently enough until @midwestfan mentioned Lombardi. When anyone invokes the name of Vincent Thomas Lombardi, my antennae go up. By the way, Vince Lombardi would have been 97 years old just this past June 11th. Imagine if he were still alive today….

Getting back to the debate, while I think Aaron is somewhat correct about the babysitting aspect, I would argue that this Packers off season has proven the unfortunate need for such a service. And yet, even with the babysitting, some guys fine a way to really screw up (yes, you, Brandon). But babysitting players is not why I think the OTAs have value. For me, it’s all about the reps.

None other than the aforementioned Vince Lombardi showed everyone what practice, practice, practice could do. On Sundays, Vince Lombardi was an observer and a motivator. There was very little actual coaching to do. Bart Starr ran the offense, Phil Bengston called the defensive schemes and Lombardi, observed, made suggestions and motivated with his words, like the occasional “what the hell’s going on out here?”

Lombardi’s trademark was practice to perfection. And yet, OTAs were not needed. Why? Two reasons. First, the playbook was a fraction of the size of a modern day playbook. You could probably count the number of base offensive formations on two hands in Lombardi’s time.

Learning the offense in a few days was very manageable back then. Now, there’s so much to know that coaches like Mike McCarthy separate the playbook installations into eight or ten packages, with players being exposed to them one at a time so they’re not overwhelmed.

The second reason Vince Lombardi would never need OTAs is because he could keep his players out on the field for hours and hours if he chose to, until they could execute the plays to perfection. He could do what he pleased an nobody would question him.  If coaches tried that today, they’d probably be brought up on Human Rights Violations charges.

Getting back to the twitter discussion, I have to take Brian Carriveau’s side in this one. And I disagree with some of Aaron’s arguments. While football may not be rocket science, the sheer volume of information players must absorb simply cries out for spreading it out over a longer period of time.

Is it better for long-term retention to cram for a test or study chapter by chapter over a period of time? Although most of us probably crammed for tests in school, I think we all know which approach is better if you want to remember the information a month later.

As for Aaron’s idea of a rookie camp, the Packers do that already – right after the draft. It’s mostly for orientation and evaluation purposes, and I believe that’s all it should be. Any real practice work should be done in the presence of the veterans (peer pressure is a wonderful thing).

Most rookies have no idea of the level of commitment needed to be successful in the NFL. Without the veterans there to show the way, it would be a sloppy mess. Not to mention the impossibility of running anything other than individual drills with only 20 players to work with. A rookie camp, to me, makes no sense at all.

So I think sensible Brian wins out over emotional Aaron. At least this time…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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33 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers OTAs – Good, Bad or Lombardi?

  1. OTAs provides an extended “walk through”, and if the players use the extra reps, and things they learn in OTAs and apply them to MC TC and games, then they will be better for it.

    And they are called TEAM activities for a reason. To start getting geared up to be part of the TEAM. If they only brought rookies in, the coaching staff might not get a true sense of what the rookies are capable of when playing with the vets/starters (I.e. If you have a rookie QB throwing to a rookie WR, neither one of them may show their real potential, same goes for a rook DB gaurding a rook WR, maybe he will look like revis vs another rook, and then his name turns out to be jarred bush….).

    OTAs=important.

  2. Lombardi had a longer training camp than they do today. They had 5 pre-seson games. And to agree with you Al. he would use every minute available to cram his philosophy into each and every players head.

    Today’s player would not stand up under that pressure. The game has changed and became more complex. The OTA’s are more classroom exercises than a demonstration of physical prowess.

  3. To me OTA’s are very essential and from a very simple point of view we witness all to much at times in the previous years games.
    The miscues,the penalty’s,the missed assigments etc.It becomes more mandatory when new plays and such are being installed and you haven’t mastered what you already have in the system.
    What I don’t like about the OTA”S is that there not mandatory for all and as we know should be, as even the veterans need to be re-assessed to make sure they are on the same page.
    If we were able to believe that the vets are actually studying their mistakes in the off-season I may be in favor of only Rookies and 2nd year guys show up but, sorry that isn’t happening.

  4. Football is the full time job these players have, what is possibly upsetting about making them come in to practice? How can these OTAs hurt?

    And, really, the Vikings went to the NFC Championship game so that proves OTAs are useless? Gimme a break.

      1. Depends on which coach is giving the advice…

        “Crosby, I think you should kick it MORE to the right. That will help!”

  5. More reasons for no OTA’s in Lombardi’s time are: 1) most of the players had off season jobs 2) Weigth training wasn’t nearly as organized and important, thus not nearly as many players stayed in town during the off season.

    1. And yet another – teams wouldn’t have been able to financially afford such an operation. That was before the big TV money came rolling in…

  6. I see nothing wrong with these guys treating their career in the NFL like a full time job. Even if they are not actually on the field or in the weight room, it certainly wouldn’t kill them to get up and come to work every morning like the rest of us who don’t make their kind of money.

    I’d like to reiterate the point that, even if it IS strictly babysitting, some of these guys obviously need it.

    1. let’s not forget the toll the game takes on their body. So they need plenty of decompress time. However, “running around in shorts” as Aaron called it, shouldn’t be too much to expect, in my opinion.

      1. Speaking of bodies, is that really Chillar or did someone photoshop your headline poicure? That body ain’t the body of a LB. Nitchke or Butkus he ain’t. Maybe that’s part of the injuury problem. Throughbred legs and weightlifter bodies. Too much weight to carry on those sticks.

    1. Taryn, try to use the “reply” button, so your comments get put in the right place.

      Decompression: I just never like to minimize what these guys go through to play this game. As fans, we can’t possibly understand. A view of Al Harris’ rehab videos has really driven that point home to me…

      1. Al,those type of injuries are not even a question for OTA’s.The others need to show up,i;e hamstrings etc are not excusable injuries not to go.That’s what team DR’s are for,to assess the player at this time.If found unfit so be it.

        1. I wasn’t making a connection between injuries and OTAs, just using harris rehab as an example of how difficult being an NFL player is. I think all fans, myself included, sometimes act like they have it easy because of how much money that make and that they don’t work all year round…

          1. AL,again you give me reason to enjoy your page. Again,”You Have Not”, seperated yourself from the the fan base in feeling and true thought.I agree we all find it hard to imagine the toil that is thrust upon the players and yet at a moments notice of disgruntlement from said player(based on the money earned) we the fan LEAP at the opportunity to bad mouth said player.
            The problem as I see it is the “PLAYER” by the very actions they do or not do that evokes a down spiral of fan support.It just seems to be a more RABID sense of not having to do what is expected.The “I” got my money and I don’t have to attitude is growing,perhaps not among the good to very good, but the “entitled” mentality is for sure and that is the true “virus” that effects the young guys thinking!
            Maybe too much thinking,IDK,but my thought.

            1. No doubt the “entitlement” attitude can put a damper on our enjoyment of sports. That’s why I still make a point to go watch HS football or soccer games. Kids playing just because they enjoy it…

  7. Sorry about the reply button as you mentioned earlier,I’m kind fo new to the computer thing and will do as suggested by all,to a point.LOL So thanks for your patience in my learning.
    I won’t ask for any but will take all advice freely.

  8. another reason players need to participate in OTAs…DC Capers is installing a lot of new wrinkles with the 3-4. Understanding and executing the Def is critical to success in 2010.

    Happy Dad’s Day to all.

  9. The OTAs are very important , learning curve is so much higher than in the Lombardi days .Players used training camp to get back into playing shape , as the salarye back then had players doing off season jobs , not year round studying and working out thru the off season , thumbs up to packers coaching staff for off season set up .
    Da Big Dawg

  10. Don’t understand how you complain that the Packers practice too much. Work at it any chance that presents itself, whether it be mental or physical. Both are (almost) equally important in todays game. Enjoyed the article AL.

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