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Old 05-15-2007, 05:38 AM   #1
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Default Minicamp shouldn't be confused as an OTA

Collier: Minicamp shouldn't be confused as an OTA
A look inside the NFL's offseason dictionary

Sunday, May 13, 2007

By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In a city where a subscription to Steelers Digest is considered an acceptable and even thoughtful Mother's Day gift, it's no surprise that the Steelers routinely work the holiday weekend that falls just 119 days from their opener, or that the dutiful media now descends on minicamp in numbers similar to its turnout at maxi-camp.

As the National Football League continues to perfect a marketing strategy designed to command our attention 24/7/365, let's not allow ourselves to confuse minicamp with the less formal (if not less formal-sounding) teaching sessions known as OTA's, or organized team activities. Each club is allowed 14 OTA's in addition to its minicamp, and they won't begin under the new Mike Tomlin administration until later this month.

Similarly, Steelers fans should not be misled by exactly what constitutes an organized team activity, like a team meeting, and a disorganized team activity, such as a punt return, or a ridiculously disorganized team activity, like either of last year's games against the Baltimore Ravens.

Further, OTA's vary from city-to-city. In Cincinnati, an OTA could be an arraignment, for example.

In any event, this weekend saw the entirety of Tomlin's first team, including its draft choices, together on a practice field for the first time, and there was no visual evidence that veteran Steelers such as James Harrison, Clark Haggans and Chris Gardocki, all now shadowed by high-profile draft picks, were the least bit uncomfortable.

"It's got nothing to do with me; it's on them," Haggans said after practice the other day. "The only thing that ever bothers me is losing football games. I'm just trying to help them make the transition to a pro camp. It's completely different than what they've done in college, a completely different defense, a whole new set of expectations. I'm willing to help in any way I can."

Haggans and Harrison looked up two rounds into last month's draft and couldn't help but notice the first two Pittsburgh picks happened to play their position, outside linebacker. Lawrence Timmons, the undersized backer out of Florida State, was the club's first pick, and LaMarr Woodley of Michigan the second.

Harrison is surely willing to help these two rookies as well, and Friday afternoon he helped them to perhaps the most instructive moment in the first practice by flashing in front of a running back for an interception and blazing down the right sideline with a highly conspicuous pick.

His point seemed to be that while the draft have underlined that the Steelers are vulnerable at outside linebacker in light of the departure of Joey Porter (whose number 55, by the way, has been assigned to Woodley), the problem is more with the depth at that position than a direct reflection on Harrison or Haggans.

Thus through much of these first practices, linebackers coach Keith Butler and defensive assistant Lou Spanos spent a lot of time telling Timmons and Woodley some part of everything that Harrison and Haggans know about the OLB assignments in Dick LeBeau's defense.

Harrison and Haggans chuckled to each other through some of it, while Harrison again flashed his proficiency at throwing a football into the grass at his feet in such a way that it bounces directly back into his hand. A perfectly useless application, to be sure, but I'm willing to bet Timmons and Woodley can't do it yet.

The first chapter of mini-camp did not include any exhibition of punting by fourth-round pick Daniel Sepulveda, the commotion of whose selection suggested that he could boot one on the South Side and drop it inside the 20 at Heinz Field.

"Everybody's replaceable in the NFL," said the ever-affable Gardocki, whose first punt was caught by, I believe, Jim Thorpe. "I've been punting for a long time. They've got to do what they've got to do."

Chris also threw out the season's first it-is-what-it-is, just for the record.

It might also be entered into the record at this point that placekicker Jeff Reed was rewarded for his persistence with a new apparatus that simulates a goal post with a crossbar matching Arena Football dimensions.

"It's nine feet instead of 18," Reed explained. "I've asked for it the last two years. But Coach Cowher wasn't a big fan of the idea."

When Tomlin convenes everyone in Latrobe 10 weeks from tomorrow, we'll begin to get a good idea of which ideas will really matter.

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Old 05-15-2007, 04:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: Minicamp shouldn't be confused as an OTA

Great article. I suspected the LB picks in the draft were for depth, Harrison will get his chance.
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