How big a setback is absence of OTAs for Eagles?


For the second consecutive spring, the Eagles will not be holding OTAs.

And for a new coach, that’s a real problem.

“I would love the players to be on the field with us,” Nick Sirianni said Wednesday. “Of course. The more I can be around the players, Zoom, in person, the better. And especially when you get them on the field and you're able to teach techniques."

How many times did we hear a young player last year talk about how difficult it was not having OTAs and spring practices, how it was a real setback as they tried to learn the Eagles’ offensive or defensive scheme?


With the pandemic first hitting last spring, the NFL eliminated all in-person OTAs, so all 32 teams held spring sessions virtually, and the first time anybody was actually on the field in uniform was for the start of training camps, a month and a half before the regular season began. Without preseason games.

No wonder so many players struggled.

With players getting vaccinated, safety protocols in place and much more information available about the risk factors involved in non-contact practice, in-person OTAs – organized team activities - are allowed this spring. The 10 OTA practices – no pads, no contact – were scheduled for the so-called third phase of the NFL’s offseason program, which runs May 24 through June 18.

Then on Sunday, the Eagles announced that they had decided as a group not to participate in any voluntary sessions. That’s their right under terms of the CBA, but attendance is usually close to 100 percent. The Eagles are one of 21 teams that has opted out of the sessions so far.

“The ongoing pandemic is obviously still an issue for our city and our country, and it is unnecessary for us to put ourselves at risk in this environment,” the Eagles’ statement read in part.

Sirianni and the other new NFL head coaches already lost the extra spring minicamp that rookie head coaches usually get.

Now he’s losing 10 on-field practices.

Sirianni said the Eagles will do their best to find creative ways to make the replacement virtual workouts as close to the real thing as possible, and he used he’s using what Frank Reich did in Indy last spring as a model for what the Eagles will do.

“We figured (it) out,” he said. “We were given a situation and we had to adapt. … Adapt or get passed up…. Adapt or get whooped. A tribute to Frank. He kind of got us going on that: ‘Hey, figure out how we're going to maximize learning. … In Indy, we had a new quarterback. We were kind of in a similar spot. We had to maximize the things that we had to do to do as much as we could. … We figured out ways. We did a great job of it.”

Sirianni said he asked his assistant coaches how their teams handled virtual meetings last year and took the best ideas from people like secondary coach Dennard Wilson, who was with the Jets last year, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who was with the Colts but on the opposite side of the ball as Sirianni.

“We have a creative group of guys,” Sirianni said. “We had a staff meeting and we said, ‘Hey, here's what we did in Indy and how we maximized how we were going to learn in the Zoom meetings. What else did you do? Dennard, what did you do in New York? Jonathan, what did you do on the defensive side of the ball? I wasn't over there. You do it together to figure out how you're going to get the most out of the players.”

Sirianni said one of the most important things the coaches need to do is find ways to keep all the players involved and hold their attention during Zoom meetings so everybody gets the most out of the sessions.

“It was making sure that the meetings were interactive,” he said. “We're in Zoom right now. I'm sure not every one of you is listening intently because there are other things going around in your basement or in your house or in your car or wherever you are. And so we've got to make those interactive. So when I call … on you, you've got to answer. It's just trying to find interactive ways to do things.”

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