As much as the start of OTAs is a huge part of the offseason in that it represents a return to field work, and something that might resemble football, it’s really the beginning of an equally important aspect of the game, that being team-building.
That is the playing field on which everybody coming into the building for the first time is equal, whether it’s an undrafted rookie or ninth-year veteran Morgan Burnett, who recently spoke to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ website about being at a new beginning after eight years in one building with the Green Bay Packers.
“When you first get here, you don’t realize it but you are starting over. I walked in, didn’t know where to go”, he said. “I am going on my ninth year, but I had those big eyes, I am trying to get familiar with everything, with the area, with the facility”.
Something as simple as not knowing where you’re supposed to be going can be disorienting, even psychologically, because you don’t feel like you’re ‘home’. Which is why this early portion of the offseason is so vital to get all of those things out of the way.
“The most important part is your teammates” and getting to know them at this time of year, Burnett said. “When you get around a group of the guys, get around each other in the building, get the chemistry. It makes it that much easier”.
And again, in that regard, the safety room is on pretty even footing, as they have added four new faces through free agency and the draft, himself being just one of them. Nat Berhe was also signed in free agency and they added Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen in the draft. So they can all get lost together.
Burnett is really where Joe Haden was a year ago. A longtime veteran with one team, neither of them knew what they were doing right off the bat. Though in Haden’s case, he didn’t have an offseason to learn everything about his new team. In fact, he’s still working on that now.
While Burnett talked about getting to know your teammates and building chemistry as the most important part of the offseason at this time of year, part of that process of building chemistry obviously takes place on the field, and that aspect of the offseason begins tomorrow with the first OTA session.
It will be the first snaps during OTAs for both Burnett and Haden, and Mike Hilton’s first working primarily with the first-team group. A lot has changed after just one year, to be sure.
But the one thing that remains the same is the process. It’s the same story that gets played out every year, only with new faces. Team-building is an effort of constant renewal and requires perpetual maintenance. Fortunately, it’s something that is in everybody’s best interests, so it rarely gets overlooked.