Big Question: Are OTAs important?

The Detroit Lions forfeited two organized team activities this week for violating the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. Is that really a big deal?

Aside from the obvious -- it's better to be practicing than not practicing -- no. Every franchise views OTAs differently, but even at their most intense, we're talking about 90-minute workouts that emphasize mental reps in an on-field environment. Even if a team installs its entire scheme during the course of these practices, it usually starts installation over on the first day of training camp.

I've watched far too many OTA practices over the years. They can be really, uh, uneventful. There is only so much to be gained from practicing in shorts, jerseys and T-shirts. In Minnesota, for example, they're so crucial that coach Brad Childress cancels at least two of them every year.

OTAs are most valuable for teams with first-year head coaches who are installing new schemes or want extended time to get incumbents on film. That's not the case in Detroit, where the Lions return the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.

Coach Jim Schwartz was hoping to create a training camp-style schedule this week: five consecutive days of football activities, including a three-day mandatory minicamp. But I imagine that by the time the Lions finish their actual training camp, there will be little evidence that they lost two OTAs. And something tells me that, at the end of the season, we're not going to hear Schwartz or anyone else say, "Man, if we had just had those extra two days of OTAs."

If you're concerned about why the Lions were singled out as one of four teams required to forfeit OTAs this spring, make sure you check out John Clayton's ESPN.com mailbag this week. It's got much more to do with the NFL's brewing labor situation than it does with anything the Lions might have tried to sneak through.