As I wrote in today’s Sun for a primer on the start of the Ravens organized team activities – the first session open to the media is Thursday - there is often more attention paid to the players who don’t take part in the “voluntary” workouts than the ones who do.
That’s pretty much how it is league wide. In some NFL cities, "voluntary" takes on a little different meaning than it does in others.
With the Ravens, there’s long been a policy of focusing on the players who do attend the OTAs and not the ones who don’t. That’s not to say John Harbaugh wouldn’t prefer all 90 of his players to be on the field this week. That would be ideal. But Harbaugh knows that’s not going to happen, and he trusts that those who aren’t there are preparing adequately and will be ready for the mandatory minicamp from June 14 to 16.
Several of the Ravens' more established players haven’t been regulars at OTAs. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata weren’t, and Marshal Yanda and Terrell Suggs haven’t attended in recent years. Suggs is still rehabbing an injury so there remains a curiosity about his status, but you can bet team officials won’t waste one second worrying about Yanda.
In certain cases, the angst is understandable. It would be suspect for a young and unproven player to blow off OTAs if they’re going to be in competition for a roster spot. You’d also like to see certain veterans who are coming off injuries make an appearance, if only to knock off some rust and show they are healthy.
And of course, you want your starting quarterback to be on the field. Joe Flacco won’t be participating this week, but it’s because he’s still rehabbing his surgically-repaired left knee. Having him healthy for training camp is far more important.
In other cases, I’m not sure you want certain stars getting too many reps at this time of year. You want them fresh for when it counts and you don’t want to put them at additional risk for injury. Wearing full pads and going full contact is prohibited in OTAs, but injuries still happen.
Also, younger players need the repetitions more at this time of year than established veterans do. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for Zachary Orr and Arthur Brown to get the majority of repetitions at inside linebacker than C.J. Mosley? Would you rather see Steve Smith Sr., who likely won’t be participating anyway as he continues rehabbing his surgically-repaired Achilles, catching passes from Ryan Mallett or Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore and Keenan Reynolds? How about Suggs or Elvis Dumervil rushing from the outside or Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon?
I’m sure you get the point. Of course, I’ll join other media members in furiously tweeting and blogging who isn’t participating when Thursday’s session is open to to us. That’s what we do, even if we’re well aware that OTA attendance isn’t the be-all and end-all.