Rules, rules, rules: Workouts set to begin

What to know about the voluntary offseason workout programs beginning Monday in select NFL cities:

  • Most teams must wait until the third Monday in April before beginning their programs. Teams with new head coaches, including the St. Louis Rams, get a two-week jump on the process. They can begin on the first Monday in April.

  • Programs for teams with new head coaches can run nine total weeks in a 12-week period, with at least eight of the weeks consecutive. Other teams have a 10-week window for their nine-week programs. Programs cannot exceed four workouts per player in a week. They are limited to weekdays.

  • Players receive at least $155 per day for participating in the program, provided they participate in at least three of four scheduled sessions in a week. Players get the $155 per workout if there are fewer than four scheduled sessions in a week.

  • Offseason workout programs have three phases with different rules for each.

  • Phase One covers the first two weeks. Players are limited only to strength and conditioning, or injury rehabilitation. Strength coaches are the only coaches allowed to watch or otherwise be involved during this period. Quarterbacks can throw passes to receivers during this phase, but no defense is permitted. Otherwise, no footballs are allowed on the field. Players cannot wear helmets. All drills must be dead-ball drills.

  • Phase Two covers the next three weeks. All coaches are allowed on the field. Individual instruction is permitted. Offensive and defensive units can run plays, but not against one another. No one-on-one drills are permitted. Players cannot wear helmets.

  • Phase Three covers the next four weeks, including up to 10 days of organized team activities. Teams can hold three days of OTAs in the first two weeks of this phase, with a maximum of four days in the third or fourth week. A mandatory minicamp for veterans falls during the other week. All coaches can participate during this third phase. Offensive and defensive units can run plays against one another. Coverage and return teams can work against one another. However, no live contact is permitted. Players can wear helmets, but they cannot wear pads of any kind, including shells.

Rules have allowed players to work out at team facilities on their own outside offseason programs. However, teams could not pay players or reimburse them for expenses during this time. The team could not supervise the workouts other than to make sure players used equipment properly. Rules prevented any practices, meetings with coaches, group or individual film study with coaches or playbook study with coaches.

The rules outlined above were collectively bargained limitations designed to give players relief from ever-encroaching offseason programs. The effect, in some cases, has been to prevent players from putting in as much preparation as they might otherwise desire, particularly when adapting to new schemes. But we're still five months away from the regular season, ample time to prepare.