While so much will change this year for the Rams upon moving to Los Angeles, don’t expect head coach Jeff Fisher to alter his approach to mandatory minicamps.
He still isn’t a fan of them, so it’s pretty much certain the Rams will remain the only team in the league that doesn’t utilize them.
But more on that in a bit.
First, a refresher on how NFL offseasons work relative to team workouts and interaction with coaches.
Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each club has a “voluntary” nine-week offseason program that unfolds over three phases:
Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.
Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.
Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or “OTAs.” No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
In addition, each team is allowed a three-day mandatory minicamp.
And that’s where Fisher draws the line. Simply put, he believes the OTA’s are more than sufficient provided there is consistent player participation.
“I can’t remember having a minicamp, ever…not a mandatory,” Fisher said. “Particularly because our player attendance in participation in the off-season program, has been so good and that’s the trade-off. ‘Hey, if you guys come, we don’t need to have a mini-camp.’”
Fisher, a former NFL player, thinks it’s overkill to force a professional athlete to practice so much during the offseason.
Or, as he explained:
“The mini-camps have changed, but back before this last collective bargaining agreement, the mini-camp, you were permitted to practice twice a day for at least two-consecutive days in a row and I never agreed with it,” he said. “I always questioned why you would take a professional athlete in the middle of the off-season and make him practice twice a day. It just didn’t make sense to me, so therefore we didn’t do it.
“Now, under the current guidelines of the minicamp, we’re not permitted to have two practices. We can have one and a walk-thru similar to training camp, but we can mandate that they’re there. If they’re not, they can be fined for not participating. So, I left that up in the air. But, you can’t have your minicamp until you’ve completed a minimum of six OTAs. Once you get six OTAs in, well, before that I’ll know and we’ll inform the league. I don’t necessarily want it. I think the minicamp, the length of day is a little long for the off-season.”
Fisher is also understanding that things come up, meaning 100 percent participation is sometimes compromised. But as long as there is communication, he’s OK with a guy missing a day or two.
“I’m expecting outstanding participation, but things come up, too,” he said. “That’s the thing about the off-season program, but our guys have been good about this. It’s clearly voluntary. It’s well reported that our off-season program is voluntary, but coaches expect players to be there. It’s their job. You can’t fine them for not being there. Our participation over the years has been outstanding.
“One of the things that makes it work, and I’ll let them know early, is I know things are going to come up. You may have committed to a wedding or you might have decided to take your wife on a cruise. Just let me know. What we frown upon is so and so walking into the building after 10 days and we don’t know where he’s at. Just tell us what you’re doing. Things come up. It’s fine. If you need to go, you have something to do, we’ll make sure you’re working out some place else. We’ll set it up for you. I think you get better results out of your off-season program when you take that approach.”