Today is Monday, April 20. It is the first day of the NFL calendar that has any meaningful significance to actually physically performing.
April 20 is, of course, the first day of Phase One of the offseason program, which spans the next two weeks. As stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are limited only to strength and conditioning and rehabilitation activities.
In other words, the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t as of yet meet with their coaches and talk about real football business, but rather are limited to the strength and conditioning staff, under which they can now officially train under their advisory, rather than of their own accord, which, of course many, if not most players already do.
That part of the offseason does not begin until Phase Two, which is set to begin just after the conclusion of the 2015 NFL Draft. At that point, players and coaches are allowed to meet and talk about football, and there is a limited amount of on-field individual coaching permitted, including select drills and limited team practices.
It’s another few weeks after that until Phase Three of the offseason program begins, following Memorial Day, during which the 10 OTAs are held. While live contact is not permitted during this period, full-team 11-on-11 drills are.
It may seem like we are still a long way off from hearing about some real, actual football, even in practice—indeed, we have yet to even reach the draft—but the beginning of Phase One is the first step down that path.
It has also often been a good opportunity to get to hear from some players, getting updates about their own offseason processes and discussing what their teammates have been doing along with them.
The offensive line group has over the past few seasons developed a tight bond within the weight room, driving each other to push themselves to their limits to better themselves for those they go to battle with.
While there is no contact between players and coaches during this period, that doesn’t mean that the young players on the roster are not getting value lessons from the veteran players, and, outside of their own planned activities, this is the first opportunity to begin that process.
While, for example, James Harrison has already brought many of the young linebackers out to Arizona to train with them and show them how he prepares his body, there is an advantage to being able to do it within the team facilities.
Another important and overlooked aspect of this initial phase is that it plants the seeds of building a roster, strengthening relationships within the locker room and evolving a collective identity within the team. Unsurprisingly, much of this occurs in the weight room.
The hope here is that we do get to hear from a couple of players and get an update about their own training, as well as their impressions of how the team is shaping up for the next season. It’s often an enlightening time, especially if we get to learn about some of the young players that the veterans have been watching and whom they think have a chance to make it.