Off To Training Camp

It will be another year before you hear “OTA because the weekend ended the 2009 string of “Organized Team Activities“.  Next up a Wednesday mini-camp and then it’s off to Training Camp.

For the Miami Dolphins, it’s a long lay off until the start of the season.  August 1st will re-unite the team for two-a-days, lightning storms, and the practice bubble.  A defense of the AFC East Championship will begin.  Injuries watches will begin and the depth chart becomes something real and tangible.

I don’t put much stock into the OTA’s.  As noticed here, I tend to stay away from writing reports on what’s going on over at the Davie compound.  Why?  Simple, it means very little in terms of what happens in August.  Let me spell this out differently for you.

The local media cling to OTA’s because frankly there isn’t much else going on.  And of course it’s their jobs.  They will post who is lining up with the 1st team and who is getting yelled at and dropping balls.  It’s good stuff…no denying that.  However, it really doesn’t mean anything because it has no bearing on what the “real” depth chart will be come August.

See, a player on the roster isn’t going to get cut from the team because he performed bad in the OTA’s.  Show up out of shape and that’s a different story.  The OTA’s is not a competition.  It’s not an audition for the younger guys unless they were brought in strictly as such.  The OTA’s are something completely different.  It’s all about the playbook.

The best information to come out of any OTA is not who is riding the stationary bike or who is running laps around the others.  It’s about classroom prep and applying what they learned on the field.  It’s motion in motion.  Walk-through’s and run-through’s.  Hustle and flow.  Whatever you want to liken it to.  It’s non-visual and nothing you can put your finger on physically.  So when you report, your left with reporting what you see and that tends to be dropped balls and interceptions.

The team gathers inside the facility.  Each unit behind a closed door classroom where they breakdown the playbook formations one at a time before convening in the team room to do the same thing over again.  They learn their responsibilities in that formation.  They learn what to look for in each opposing formation and how to exploit it.  Then, the bell rings and it’s onto the field to warm up and implement what they just learned.

They will have done this everyday of the OTA.

OTA’s allow a coach to coach.  In training camp you work towards the season.  Your focus is the first game, the formations becoming second nature, you work on filtering out who has it and who doesn’t.  You take the principal of the playbook and you make it a reality.  Who will make it and who will go home.

OTA’s is where coaches get to be coaches.  Where position coaches can work on technique’s, footwork, positioning, throwing motions, and so much more.  It’s a lot more fun to be a coach in an OTA than it is in training camp because your teaching.It’s fun to read that Pat White hit Ted Ginn on a long bomb or that Chad Henne floated a sideline pass perfectly over a defender, it gets you pumped for the season.  While you can take away those positives, the truth is you have to disregard the negatives.  Pat White may struggle as the QB but he is being tossed into a playbook that is more complicated than anything he has ever seen.

It’s easy to take reports the wrong way.  John Nalbone drops a bunch of passes early on and Tony Sparano is on his case about it.  Is he struggling?  Not nescessarily.  See Nalbone for example struggled in week 1 catching passes and then got better with them as the weeks progressed.  Why?  Did he suddenly learn to use his hands right?  No of course not.  He simply got used to the routes.

If you have ever played sports, football especially, it’s tough the first time out with any team.  Your mind is focused on things like “where is the CB…the LB…the Safety.”  “Which way do I go if he goes here…did the QB just audible or did I miss something”.  Then, it’s “For God’s sake don’t drop the ball…oh hell, the LB turned what now?”  By then the ball is in the air and your dropping the pass.  Your in an un-natural position.  As time moves along your mind eases off the questions while your running, it becomes closer to a second nature.  You relax and you catch the ball.

Training camp is around the corner.  No more playbook implementations, it’s time to fight for your job, make the roster.  It’s when those who worked hard to get past the mental barriers find themselves getting better while those who didn’t struggle with simplicities.

Pat White may struggle in training camp and while it will be easy to scrutinize every single throw he makes and every decision he makes, the reality is that each play allows him to learn something more and it’s then that he will start to get it.

The OTA can be viewed by many different people, reporters, fans, and bloggers.  Each with a varying degree of opinion on what to take away from them.  Some will see them as tell-all about the character of certain players, some will look at them as a barometer to who has it and who does not.  Others, such as myself will view them simply as an organized way to learn the playbook and get into better condition.

Either way, they are over and done with.  Rookies will start signing, teams will begin prepping, and in late July some teams will kick-off their season.  For the Miami Dolphins, that begins August 1st and when it does…everything starts to matter.

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