Monday, June 8, 2009

Let's Stop Obsessing About OTA Attendance

Mike Sherman used to say it. Mike McCarthy does, too. And ne'er have words rung truer at OTA time.

"We can't worry about the guys that aren't here. We're going to worry about the guys that are here."

And yet, we've spent the last two weeks stressing about the hidden and furtive agendas of Donald Driver and Nick Collins, who chose to skip at least the first week of OTA's. And since both apparently have contract concerns, the media has speculated endlessly about what they are feeling, what message they are trying to send, and what this means for the future.

We've seen fans post concerns about a veteran team leader like Driver, and even calls to trade Nick Collins before it is too late. And yet, in the end, Driver showed up for Week 2 OTA's, and Collins' absence was vindicated with the unfortunate death of his father in Florida due to cancer.

Now, I've been accused of having a Pleasantville view of how the "good ol' days" used to be, but I don't recall attendance at OTA's being as much of an issue years ago. It seemed like if someone didn't show up, even over a contract issue, the story was "the OTA's are optional" and "we will expect them at the start of training camp". And that was it.

And, I realize a lot of it has to do with the instant access many of us expect from today's mainstream and blogging media sites. We eat it up.

But, I also go back to what, to me, was a turning point in OTA attendance, and that was the yearly hullabaloo over Brett Favre's attendance at them. In the mid-2000's, there were some pretty critical voices of Favre, and one of the items tossed out there was whether or not he was a bad teammate because he didn't attend OTA's.

Now, there are many players that don't attend OTA's, often because they are older veterans who want more time with their family and know what they need to do to get into playing shape. Charles Woodson, one of our most veteran leaders on the team, still does not attend OTA's.

But Favre's situation was always overmagnified. In 2005, criticism abounded as Favre eschewed OTA's, and the fans and media relentlessly questioned it. In response, Favre announced he was working with a core trainer at his home to make sure everyone knew not only that he was working out, but how he was working out.

How many players are required to provide a detailed synopsis of their offseason regiment to the media and fans?

The following year, the media reported daily on whether or not Favre was in attendance at each day's OTA, mostly because new coach Mike McCarthy announced that he had expected Favre to attend 10 of 14 of the minicamp sessions. Yet amusingly enough, they were forced to also announce plenty of other veterans that were missing OTA's, too.

And yet, does McCarthy announce the number of OTA's he expects each player to attend prior to their start?

Do I say this in defense of Favre, especially as his storyline continues to develop today? No. I bring it up because it seemed to mark a new, unintended standard by those loudly making it an issue. At the time, I pointed out that those who were so vociferous in painting Favre as a Bad Teammate because he missed OTA's were setting a double standard for players in the future, who would eventually be judged by the same criteria.

And so here we are, instead of obsessing on whether or not Favre is in attendance, we are obsessing over Nick Collins and Donald Driver, only to find out later that their reasons for missing were valid. The OTA's are voluntary, and while it is certainly in the best interest for players to attend (especially a low-IQ guy like Collins who is supposed to be burning the midnight oil learning his new defensive scheme), they will suffer their own consequences, if any, for not being there.

And, in reality, the guy we probably should be most concerned about is the guy who is in attendance, Aaron Kampman. But, even though he appears clearly put out over the new defense and his new role, he has shown up for each practice. He's a pro. And like the Mikes say, we should be worrying about the guys who are here, not the ones who aren't.

Every Frankenstein's Monster has to be created, and when you look at Brett Favre today, it's not hard to see why he feels the world revolves around him. A great example is the day-to-day reports on whether or not Brett Favre was at OTA's. Did McCarthy excuse him? What is he doing to stay in shape? Does his attendance or lack thereof make him a bad teammate? How is he supposed to be helping his teammates learn the offense when he isn't even there? Will he be there tomorrow?

That kind of obsession, positive or negative, isn't good for anyone.

So, my advice is this: let's allow Collins and Driver (and Woodson and whomever else) to miss the OTA's without obsessing about it. When training camp rolls around, we'll find out how big of an issue they have (and how much they missed in not coming).

The last thing we would want to do is make Nick Collins start believing the world revolves whether or not he comes to OTA's or not. Been there already.


stick56 said...

Certainly we can go overboard wih OTA attendance.

But in this era of far shorter and less challenging TCs they are far more important.

And this is magnified when someting such as a new defense is being installed and/or a player is having contractual issues to boot.

IMHO its always been a fine line between the winners and losers in the NFL and missing OTAs could be the difference between a successful player and one les so.

Which of course could well translate into the success of the team as a whole.

Probably its time to make these practices mandatory.

Anonymous said...

The quarterback of your team...the leader of the team on the field...needs to be at OTAs more than anybody else. You need to establish timing with your receivers and work out details with the coaches.

If a guard, or a safety, or a linebacker misses some OTAs it's not as big of a deal, but the QB needs to be there unless there's a damn good reason for him not to be.

In an article prior to the 2004 season, Favre talked about how he didn't always come to camp in the best shape and talked about how he doesn't like to work out. I understand that. But when you're the leader of the team I think you need to set a better example than that.

Everybody wants to win; not everybody is willing to prepare to win.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with this post.

C.D. Angeli said...

stick, I'm with you. I do think that if it is that important, the owners and the union need to get together and make it mandatory, not voluntary. It's hard to keep passing judgment on, say, Collins when Woodson is missing all the OTA's year after year.

Packerwatch...thanks much!