Voluntary workouts start Tuesday in Buffalo for all Bills rookies and veterans. Organized team activities are the first time each off-season that the entire roster has the opportunity to work together. Up to this point, the rookies and lightly seasoned veterans were the only ones who had the opportunity to officially practice at One Bills Drive.
There are guidelines to OTA practices. The most important may be that these practices are voluntary. No coach may say or imply otherwise. Drayton Florence offered his take to me via Twitter on players not participating during these workouts.
"If you're a true pro, you're gonna be in shape, so not coming to voluntary sessions is really no big deal."
Florence would know. The veteran has spent seven years in the NFL and had off-seasons with Marty Schottenheimer, Norv Turner, Jack Del Rio, and Dick Jauron running the practice sessions. But he told me the coach isn't the driving factor in the difference in OTAs from team to team.
"It's different depending on a team's status," said the cornerback. "Our offensive OTAs are gonna be a lot different from a standpoint of chemistry and who's gonna lead the way and our coaches gotta learn what they have inherited."
Practices during OTAs are limited to knee and elbow pads, helmets, and shorts. There is to be no hitting taking place, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Former Buffalo Bill Matt Bowen has an excellent breakdown at National Football Post.
"Jobs are not won — or lost — in an OTA practice," says the former safety, "but this is the time to make good impressions on the coaching staff and your teammates."
The players can be at the facility for a maximum of six hours per day, with a maximum two hours on field for any player. Florence mentioned four hours at the facility, but also included that there is "extra film work" but didn't go into specifics. For their trouble, each player receives $130 a day for attending, plus the cost of travel.
When asked about the worst part of OTAs, Florence gave a calculated answer.
"There's nothing bad about preparing to win a championship."
There are 14 of these sessions, and most teams are starting them this week and running until June 22. Two mandatory mini-camps will also be held, one from June 4-6, the other from June 23-25.
As part of mandatory mini-camp, on Saturday, June 5, the Bills will be holding a practice open to fans at Ralph Wilson stadium. Admission is free and practice runs from 3-5 PM. For more information on the event visit BuffaloBills.com. Florence has mentioned something special for his Twitter followers that afternoon.
"Meet me in the endzone opposite the locker rooms [before] practice. I got a surprise for y'all."