Since practices are closed, including to the media except for one day a week, few fans really understand what goes on at an OTA practice. For those that don't know, the acronym means "Offseason Training Activities" and they're always optional.
With next week's minicamp dates announced (three are open to the public), perhaps it's time to better understand what exactly is happening at these training sessions. For that we turn to Matt Bowen of the National Football Post and his recent article regarding OTAs. As a former player, he provides a unique perspective on these practices.
Bowen said all players need the OTA period to get reacquainted with technique, footwork and "functional football movements." The periods are especially helpful to rookies as it helps them acclimate to the speed of the NFL, even if it's practice tempo. Beyond technique, Bowen believes OTAs are critical for learning the playbook.
"We have to remember that pro clubs don't install the base offensive and defensive schemes during training camp," Bowen wrote. "There is no time to have multiple walk-thru periods (or correction periods) when paychecks are on the line and you are getting ready for the regular season."
This is particularly important to the Falcons this year since they're installing a new defense and offense under new coordinators Mike Nolan and Dirk Koetter. The offense is attempting to make that transition easier by using aspects of the old offense in coordination with some of Koetter's new ideas.
Bowen says that by the time OTAs end, the playbook will be completely installed and the players are expected to return to training camp in late July and early August with a strong understanding of it.
So for any Falcons fans attending the open sessions of minicamp last week, while it may appear at times that players aren't accomplishing much, remember that this part of the season is a learning process, especially for the Falcons.
When training camp starts, it will get very serious and the competition head coach Mike Smith has spoken about all offseason will be on full display.