Somewhere along the way “voluntary” Organized Team Activities in the National Football League became a must-attend event for coaches, fans and media.
Sorry, players have lives.
Six years ago, former Cowboys linebacker Darren Hambrick uttered his best line, “What does voluntary mean?”
D-Ham was criticized at the time for not attending the club’s OTAs because he was unhappy with his contract. Players who have contract issues and complaints skip the “voluntary” OTAs. That doesn’t make them bad guys.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has destroyed his good-guy image with his trade demands and his unnecessary public spat with head coach Marvin Lewis and the organization.
Johnson is not wrong to boycott the OTAs because the players association has a deal with the owners that protects the players from being forced to participate.
Mandatory mini-camps are different. All players must show up.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe players should attend OTAs because it will make their teams better, but guys don’t have to have perfect attendance. I certainly can’t recall who decided not to come to all of last year’s voluntary work at Valley Ranch.
Bullies like Miami Dolphins president Bill Parcells want players to live and train year-round at the team’s complex.
Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor skipped Dolphins workouts to participate on the hit show, Dancing with the Stars, and has angered the Tuna. Taylor’s situation has gotten so bad that he has asked the Dolphins to trade him.
It’s a shame, because Taylor was recently named the NFL’s Man of the Year for his work in South Florida. He’s the kind of player Parcells needs, but because he wants a life in the off-season, he is looked at as not being a team player.
Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye supported Taylor’s dancing on a Sirius NFL radio program this week. Ogunleye said too many NFL players never develop skills outside of football during their off-seasons and end up lost. Cowboys safety Roy Williams is on vacation with his family with the OK of coach Wade Phillips. In the eyes of some people who cover the team, you’d have thought he committed a crime.
There is a lot of speculation about Williams’ comfort and role in the defense, but missing one week of four scheduled weeks of OTAs will not get him cut.
The players don’t get paid for voluntary football practices. Voluntary means of one’s free will.
We should remember that.
Newy Scruggs is the sports director at NBC 5.