The Voluntary Yet Crucial Nature of NFL Offseason Programs

The Voluntary Yet Crucial Nature of NFL Offseason Programs

In the competitive theater of the NFL, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) serve as a critical prelude to the regular season. These sessions, devoid of live contact, span 10 days and are ostensibly voluntary. However, the importance of these gatherings extends far beyond their voluntary label, offering a prime opportunity for teams to forge cohesion, fine-tune strategy, and set the tone for the upcoming season.

Micah Parsons' Notable Absence from Cowboys’ OTAs

One of the most conspicuous absences at this year’s OTAs is that of Micah Parsons, the dynamic linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. Having missed two weeks worth of team activities, Parsons has been notably active on social media, even during times concurrent with his team’s OTA sessions. Instead of participating in team activities, Parsons opted for an unconventional approach to his offseason preparation by engaging in boxing training and spending time in Tokyo.

Coach Mike McCarthy Weighs In

Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy has not shied away from expressing his views on Parsons' absence, labeling it as a “missed opportunity.” McCarthy underscores the significance of the offseason program, not only for the team as a cohesive unit but also for individual development. He revealed that a commendable 98% of the roster has fully participated in the OTAs, implicitly highlighting Parsons’ absence as an outlier.

Locker Room Perspectives on OTA Participation

Within the locker room, opinions on the importance of OTA attendance tend to vary, though most lean towards the necessity of being present. Brandin Cooks, a seasoned wide receiver, specifically pointed out the vital role OTAs play for younger players in acclimatizing to the professional game. Rookie tackle Tyler Smith echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the significance of OTAs in grasping the fundamentals and integrating with the team. Quarterback Dak Prescott, despite ongoing contract negotiations, has not missed an OTA session, signifying his commitment to team preparation and leadership through example.

Mandatory Minicamp: The Next Step and Its Stakes

Looking ahead, the Cowboys, like all NFL teams, are gearing up for the mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 4-6. Unlike the voluntary OTAs, players are expected to attend the minicamp under threat of fines for noncompliance. This setup underscores the escalating importance of this phase in the preseason process as a bridge between the voluntary OTAs and the rigorous demands of training camp. Coach McCarthy encapsulates this sentiment well, stressing the collective responsibility players have to themselves and their team, regardless of their physical presence at OTAs. “Everybody has a responsibility whether they're here or not here to get what they need because when we hit Oxnard [for training camp], that's our one opportunity for real football,” he explicates. Dak Prescott, for his part, succinctly summed up the balance between individual pursuits and team obligations. “Business is business... Right now, it's about being my best for this team right now in this moment,” he stated, embodying the dedication expected of a leader.


In the intricate dance of NFL pre-season preparations, OTAs offer a unique space for growth, evaluation, and team-building. While designated as voluntary, the implications of participation—or the lack thereof—can be profound. Micah Parsons’ choice to forgo these sessions in favor of alternative training methods places a spotlight on the varying approaches to readiness and commitment within professional football. As teams transition from OTAs to mandatory minicamps, the journey toward the regular season intensifies, with each step offering insights into the priorities and potential of both teams and individual players.