This week the 2013 Dolphins will begin the final phase of their offseason training regimen with the first of 10 organized team activity days more commonly known as OTA days.
Call this Phase Three of the offseason for all 32 NFL teams and it consists 10 practices and a mandatory minicamp over the next four weeks. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of OTA. They typically break those down in sets of three or four consecutive days.
For the Dolphins the first OTA segment is Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The club also has segments scheduled for May 29-31, and June 3-6. The club's mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 11-13.
No live contact is permitted during OTAs, but 7-on-7 and 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permissible.
So what is important to watch out for? There are multiple things that are important to teams and coaches this time of year. They are:
1. Attendance. Atlhough OTAs are not mandatory, teams like to make sure to stress to players that it is in everyone's best interest to attend. It's good for the team. It's good for players. Most everyone does attend, even injured players as they work on regaining their form. But ...
It must be pointed out that OTA days are usually when you see drama if there's going to be any between a player and a team. Players unhappy with their contract status sometimes skip these sessions to get a team's attention. Last year, defensive end Cameron Wake did not attend as he wanted a new contract extension.
It is possible defensive tackle Randy Starks, who has skipped significant parts of the team's offseason program because he wants a new long-term deal could skip the OTAs as well.
2. Injuries. The worst news for any player is getting injured. It's bad news any time of the year. OTA sessions are no different considering there's no contact allowed and the fact training camp is coming in a couple of months. An OTA session in which no one is injured is a solid OTA days regardless of what else happens.
3. Chemistry. This is the time to start building. The Dolphins, you must recall, have two dozen new players that are likely going to be on the roster. Among that group, we're talking maybe 8 or 9 new starters. So how do these important players fit into or change the culture? How does the locker room react to the additions? How does the lockerroom react to departures such as that of Reggie Bush, Davone Bess and Jake Long and Karlos Dansby? All those men were leaders on the 2012 Dolphins. This is the time of year new leadership starts to be cast.
4. Speed. The Dolphins have not been an exceptionally fast team in past years. Plodding is more like it. They at times seemed to be playing in sand, they were so slow. The OTAs coming up will be a good time to gauge if the speed of the team has improved. Remember, players will not be in full pads. If this is going to be a quicker, faster team, it better show quite obviously starting now because it's not likely to suddenly show up in full gear later on. And as players such as Mike Wallace bring a speed dimension unseen on a Dolphins practice field in a while, now is a good time for teammates on both sides of the ball to adjust to that kind of speed.
Tuesday is open to the media. Wednesday and Thursday is closed to the media and the public.
The Dolphins will typically make only one OTA day open to the media per session.