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OTA Days Are School Days

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals-OTA Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWO

During Monday’s OTA practice, the Arizona Cardinals were able to practice offense versus defense for the first time.

OTA days are like school days.

There are new teachers on the field and in the classroom.

The returning students have been joined by close to 50 new students.

The class sizes right now are at their maximums.

The new head coach said that this day was an important day for “installs.”

When asked about the absentees, Kliff Kingsbury reiterated that the OTAs are voluntary, that the communication with those missing has been strong---and that he and his staff have make up plans for those who miss.

Like school, is it a big deal to miss a day?

Any coach or teacher understands the anxiety she or he feels when player or student is missing---it’s not ideal for the group to begin with, and when new instructions are taking place, it puts the absentees and the teachers (to a degree) in a catch-up position.

These are new teachers with new instructions.

To say missing a day is no big deal is moot, at best, primarily because instructions matter and team chemistry matters.

Thus it felt extremely hypocritical of Patrick Peterson to, on the one hand, apologize to his teammates for violating one of the most significant NFL rules, and then turn around and not be there with them when the OTAs started this week.

Patrick Peterson’s situation has not only burdened his teammates, it has put first year head coach Kliff Kingsbury in an extremely tenuous position. Kingsbury has to show his support for Peterson, but at the same time, Kingsbury can’t make light of the violation, which yesterday he called “disappointing.” But, on the other hand Kingsbury sounded like he was intentionally flattering Peterson when he said, “We all know the kind of player and person he is. We are going to be really excited when he comes back.”

Dan Bickley wrote an article yesterday wherein he called Peterson’s actions “uncaptainlike.” Amen. This recent article seemed antithetical to Bickley’s previous article where he stated that he is standing by the player and the person.

Yet, it’s easy to understand why Kliff Kingsbury needs to equivocate where Peterson is concerned. He is just getting to know Peterson, which has been more challenging of an endeavor, seeing as Peterson is in his self-imposed exile. Thus, he doesn’t want to run the risk of alienating Peterson by being less flattering to the media. Most coaches and teachers know that it is better to give the players and students the benefit of the doubt until a respectful rapport has been established.

Bill Belichick has a great way of handling absentee players with regard to the media---his pat statements are that he is focused on coaching the players who are here and that he will only make comments on the players who are in the building. That solves that.

If missing Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Suggs and David Johnson becomes more than a one or two day occurrence, then it won’t matter all that much. Still, these OTA days are scheduled (like school days) far enough in advance that the players should be able to work their schedules around them, as the vast majority of them are doing. In essence, these days are 3-4 hour half days.

The great news is that the players who were in attendance yesterday created a lot of good energy, excitement and buzz. Paul Calvisi did a very good job of capturing that vibe in this Cards Weekly segment:

https://www.azcardinals.com/video/05-20-weekly

It helped too that Kyler Murray brought boxes of donuts and breakfast sandwiches for the offensive line. By the end of practice his offensive linemen were sounding more excited than ever before...and not just because of the donuts!

That’s the great thing about the first day of classes---when the buzz is good, the continued expectation of it, can set the tone for the entire year.

When the practice is that much fun and the esprit de corps of the group is magnetic---no one wants to miss it.

Not even when it’s supposedly voluntary