At a number of team facilities around the league, the bigger storyline with the start of organized team activities is who isn’t on the field rather than who is.
The decision of star wide out Odell Beckham Jr. to not attend the New York Giants' first couple of OTA sessions this week is still being discussed. That the Kansas City Chiefs were without defensive standouts Justin Houston, Eric Berry and Marcus Peters was one of the major takeaways from their OTAs opening. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made headlines when he expressed disappointment with teammate and star running back Le’Veon Bell’s OTA absence Tuesday.
What’s understood yet often ignored during such discussions is that OTA workouts are supposed to be voluntary.
Players aren’t required to be on the field or at the team facility until the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. However, in this day and age, that doesn’t stop notable absences in OTAs from becoming major headlines.
That, though, traditionally isn’t the case with the Ravens.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh would surely love it if all 90 players on his roster were either on the field or in the building during the three OTA weeks. Some players, who are dealing with physical ailments or are still rehabilitating after offseason surgeries, aren’t quite ready to participate in on-field workouts, but they can still sit in on meetings and film sessions.
However, Harbaugh also understands that some of his players will opt to stay away and continue their workouts on their own. Perhaps privately, there is some angst about the players who aren’t participating in OTAs, but publicly, there’s no evidence of that. Harbaugh and Ravens coaches and players typically deflect questions about the players who aren’t on hand by saying the focus is on the players who are participating. Not a hint of bitterness or disappointment is detected.
The Ravens aren’t one of the teams that traditionally have 100 percent attendance at OTAs. For much of their careers, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed didn’t attend voluntary workouts. Haloti Ngata and the next group of Ravens’ defensive stars weren’t regulars at OTAs either.
Other current veterans, such as Marshal Yanda, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb, also have stayed away from all or most of the OTAs, returning to the team facility in time for the mandatory minicamp.
It’s never treated as a big deal when they do. In fact, it would be more newsworthy around Owings Mills if Yanda and Suggs were participating in OTAs.
What exactly do Suggs and Yanda have to prove by being on the field in shorts and jerseys in May and early June? Isn’t it more important that younger players at their positions, such as Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser, Matthew Judon and Nico Siragusa, get the repetitions?
I get the argument that you want your established veteran leaders around the younger players as much as possible, but there’s plenty of time for that with the mandatory minicamp and training camp.
The first Ravens’ OTA open to reporters is Thursday afternoon. Several Ravens, including Harbaugh, tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, are scheduled to speak to reporters after the workout. Of course, The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets covering the team will write or talk about who wasn’t in attendance.
But barring a significant development in terms of an injury or a contract-related absence, the prevailing storylines will be on players taking part in the workouts. There isn’t anything unique or new about select Ravens veterans opting to stay home from voluntary workouts.