When rookie orientation concludes this weekend, the Packers will be just a month away from wrapping up their entire offseason program.
If it seems as though the offseason calendar is moving more swiftly than in the past, that’s because it is. The calendar is shorter now on both ends.
Due to the collective bargaining agreement reached last summer between the owners and players, teams could not start their offseason programs this year until April 16, about a month later than in prior years.
Organized Team Activities (OTAs) also were reduced in the new CBA from 14 per team to just 10. As a result, the Packers will have OTAs over a three-week period beginning in late May – with three the week of May 21, three the week of May 28 and four the week of June 4.
That will be followed by the customary three-day mandatory mini-camp, slated for June 12-14, to conclude the offseason program about a week sooner than in the past. The Packers used to spread their OTAs out over a four-week period and then conclude with the mini-camp in the third week of June.
References to the past do not include last year, of course, when the lockout wiped out the entire offseason program, including the rookie orientation.
This weekend’s rookie camp is a tradition Head Coach Mike McCarthy began early in his tenure in Green Bay. It begins with a welcoming dinner on Thursday night, followed by meetings and non-padded, on-field workouts Friday through Sunday for the team’s draft picks and undrafted free agents, plus a group of players participating on a tryout basis and hoping to earn a rookie free-agent contract.
In the past, the rookie orientation has been held the weekend right after the draft, but this year McCarthy said he moved it back a week to make travel arrangements easier. By arriving two weeks after the draft, McCarthy said the rookies can stay with the team for the remainder of the offseason program, rather than be forced to travel back and forth.
The orientation weekend is the rookies’ first exposure to the offensive, defensive and special teams playbooks. The three days of meetings and workouts provide a brief introduction.
That exposure is then expanded as the full team moves through OTAs and the June mini-camp. The team’s first training-camp practice, slated for Thursday, July 26, will be exactly six weeks after the final mini-camp workout.