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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Organized team activities are important for rookies, like first round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. (PHOTO: Jim Biever / Green Bay Packers)

OTAs kick off Packers' team building time


The National Football League has done an excellent job of creating a year-round enterprise, where it seems like the Super Bowl is not just the end of one year, but the quarter turn in a new one.

Think about it.

Playoff games were held just over four months ago. The Senior Bowl – a key part of the "offseason" and draft process – was sandwiched between conference championships games and the Pro Bowl in late January.

Seattle beat Denver less than 17 weeks ago. The draft combine fell two weeks after that.

The draft was just held three weeks ago, and those new players have already had their first organized workouts with their teams.

The official league calendar didn't flip until March 11, when free agency began, but who can tell the difference anymore?

The players and coaches never stop working, and the machine rolls on.

The first formative workouts of the 2014 season begin today however in Green Bay, with organized team activities (OTAs) at Ray Nitschke, across the street from Lambeau Field.

Now, not every member of Packers will necessarily be there – some of these workouts are voluntary and some veterans may choose to skip them – but it is the first time the current edition of the Packers can get together, meet one another (if that hasn't happened already) and real team building can begin.

(For those attending tomorrow's open session, second round pick Davante Adams and third round selection Khyri Thornton have been excused to attend the NFL Players Association's Rookie Premier orientation event in Los Angeles).

Today is the first of three days in the initial OTA installment, and it is the first time that 11-on-11 drills are allowed in the summer, but no contact is permitted (neither are one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen and receivers and defensive backs).

The Packers will have three of these workouts over the next three weeks, and how many sessions, and now long they run, are closely governed under the collective bargaining agreement. But much can be gained from the six hours or so per day the players are allowed to be together.

This is especially true of the Packers, a team that consistently rates as one of the youngest rosters in the NFL.

You hear a lot about "identity" and "chemistry" – and while such things may take months to form, if they ever do, there needs to be a starting point – the OTAs are just that.

While considerable pressure remains – the late round picks and undrafted free agents will be going all-out to earn a roster or practice squad spot – it is a relaxed enough atmosphere for players to get to know one another and the new coaches.

Jobs won't be won or lost during the next three weeks, but coaches will get a good idea of how quickly new players are picking up the offensive and defensive systems, how healthy returning players like DuJuan Harris are after season-ending injuries, and how players like J.C. Tretter are adjusting to new positions and responsibilities.

The NFL season may never truly end, but count these next three weeks as the true beginning of the 2014 season.


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