EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Organized team activities are optional. They also aren’t exactly overflowing with meaningful player evaluation.
New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo admitted as much last week. He’s not overly fixated on which players are catching the most passes or making the most physical miscues. Spring practices are about something other than that.
“Yeah, again, this isn’t the time that you go out there and you necessarily want to evaluate performance,” McAdoo said. “That is not what this time of year is about. It is about teaching; it is about learning and seeing guys grow.
“We are not out there counting numbers right now.”
The Giants are primarily looking to see how new additions, rookies and young players are picking up schemes and the playbook. They’re more concerned with the mental aspect of things than the physical part.
No wonder star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon have elected to stay away from voluntary OTAs. Whether they are there or not isn’t going to make much of a difference come this summer or season.
Both are expected at mandatory OTAs next week.
The way it’s unfolded ever since this new collective bargaining agreement went into place in 2011 is that OTAs have become optional for stable veterans and mandatory for anyone fighting for a job or roster spot. Even teams have come to realize it’s a whole new world.
“It’s largely about being around the younger players,” an executive with another NFC team said of OTAs. “But for the established players on solid ground, I don’t think it matters a ton.”
That sentiment was shared by another executive for a different team. He didn't seem to mind if players stayed home in the spring, as long as they knew he was working out religiously.
This time of year is more important for Giants first-round pick Evan Engram and the 2017 draft class than the team's four Pro Bowlers from last year. The rookies are forced to learn on the fly while being mixed in with the veterans for the first time.
It’s a lot for them to take in, but the hope is that their hard work in the spring prepares them for what is to come this summer and winter.
“Right now, mentally, it is heavy for them and they are working hard at it,” McAdoo said. “They are getting a lot of meeting time in the afternoons. We keep them here as much as we can and they go out, they practice hard, they make some mistakes, they seem like a conscientious group that doesn’t repeat a lot of mistakes, and that is a big advantage for them.”
It’s mostly the same for second-year players, especially ones like linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Darian Thompson. The spring is valuable after rookie years where they didn’t collect a lot of game experience.
However, anyone with even the slightest of injury is kept out of OTAs. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, cornerback Eli Apple and tight end Rhett Ellison were all sidelined last week with minor injuries.
At this time of year, it’s best to play it safe.
“I don't want to go in the offseason with anything crazy,” said Apple, who had a hamstring tweak. “Right now, I'm in a good place.”
Yep, it’s just OTAs, where player performance isn't even paramount.