It's starting to look a little bit like football here in Flowery Branch. After conditioning and light on-field work last week the Falcons begin the third and final phase of the NFL's offseason program this week. Phase 3 remains its customary four-week length and signals the closest thing that we've seen to a return to normal.
During Phase 3, the Falcons will hold in-person meetings and classroom instruction so long as all players, coaches, and staff follow the NFL's COVID protocols, including testing cadence, tracking, and facility access rules. The team will also hit the field as a full squad for the first time. No live contact is allowed nor are one-on-one drills like pass rush, pass protection, or bump-and-run but the Falcons will run 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills with the offense and defense going up against each other for the first time.
The Phase 3 practices are known as Organized Team Activities or OTAs. Teams are permitted to hold 10 OTA practice days over the four-week period. The Falcons will hold three days of OTA practices in the first week and three days in the second week with the fourth day being a "non-OTA" day during which the on-field work will resemble that of Phase 2 and there will be additional meetings and classroom instruction.
Atlanta will hold its mandatory veteran minicamp during the third week of Phase 3 before closing out the offseason program with four days of OTAs. To this point, much of the offseason program has been about getting the players up to speed both physically and mentally. With Phase 3, things began to switch gears a bit. After focusing on getting the terminology, alignment, and responsibilities down now it's time to start focusing on clean execution. These practices won't be full speed, but they're designed to get everyone to the point where they'll be able to operate at full speed when training camp starts in July.
Each OTA practice day will look like a normal practice day during the season from a scheduling standpoint. The rookies will have the early shift in the weight room, starting their day bright and early with lifting and conditioning. The offense and defense will flip between meetings, lifting, and conditioning before the whole team convenes for an in-person team meeting held on the Falcons indoor practice field for spacing.
Coach Smith will hit on the points of emphasis for the day in the team meeting and then the team will break out into position meetings. The majority of the team will have roughly an hour to prep for practice, fueling, taping, and activation then everyone will hit the field for practice. As noted about these practices will feature team periods for the first time.
Once practice concludes players will speak to the media and do their recovery which includes things like, nutrition, hydrotherapy, compression therapy, intravenous fluids, and cryotherapy. The veteran's days are done at this point while rookies will complete an hour session of the Rookie Development Program and have another set of position meetings before their day concludes.
The Falcons will follow this schedule structure for the first two weeks of Phase 3 and hold their veteran minicamp in the third week. This minicamp is the only portion of the offseason program that is mandatory and it follows the same Phase 3 rules as the OTA practices. Players may be asked to participate in club activities for a maximum of 10 hours per day over three days. Teams are permitted to hold two practices but those cannot exceed three- and one-half hours per day.
That's ripped right from the CBA, so it's naturally a little dense. What it means is that the Falcons can hold one practice and one walkthrough per day over the three practice days of minicamp. It's capped at three on-field days, but teams are giving an initial day for physicals and other administrative details that need to be ironed out. This is also the day that the Falcons will capture all the great photos and videos that you'll see throughout the season here and on the club's social media channels.
Following the final four days of OTAs, the coaches and players will take a roughly five-week break until training camp starts. The only exception is the rookie class. Those players will stick around for an extra three days to close out the Rookie Development Program.