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Ravens Insider: No more OTAs? Ravens see pros and cons of NFLPA’s reported proposal to alter offseason schedule.


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Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson spent at least part of last Friday working on his timing with teammate and wide receiver Zay Flowers — social media highlights included a 45-yard dime dropped into Flowers’ lap on a go route, along with 20-yard completions on out and slant routes.

Only they weren’t at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills, where many of Baltimore’s players were wrapping up their second week of organized team activities. They were on a high school field in South Florida, where Jackson and Flowers are from and where fellow Ravens receiver Nelson Agholor also joined them.

OTAs, after all, are voluntary, and players are not required to participate in them (though Jackson will reportedly forfeit a $750,000 workout bonus by not attending enough of them, according to Pro Football Talk).

Whether Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been displeased with the lack of attendance by his $260 million franchise quarterback and two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, he wouldn’t exactly say, though what he didn’t say when asked about it wasn’t difficult to parse.

Soon, however, it might not matter. According to multiple reports and as first reported by the NFL Network, the NFL Players Association is putting together a proposal that would eliminate voluntary on-field workouts in the spring in favor of a longer ramp-up period going into training camp in the summer.

What does Harbaugh think of the idea?

“That’s really interesting to me,” he said. “The thing I’m really encouraged by with a proposal or a thought like that is the fact that the union and the league are working together on it.

“Right now, it’s not probably perfect. I think the different studies [that] they’ve done would say that the timeline is not really great, and so if they can kind of make the timeline better somehow and both the union and the league agree that this is the best way to do it, that would be fantastic.”

Instead of players around the league gathering at team facilities beginning around mid-April for voluntary workouts, OTAs in May and mandatory minicamp in mid-June, then having five or six weeks off before the start of training camp, most of the on-field sessions in the spring would reportedly be eliminated. Players would get a longer break once the season is over, followed by reporting to training camp in late June or early July, and the intensity of workouts would increase gradually before transitioning to full practices.

While the proposal has yet to be finalized, the union is expected to pitch it to the league and owners, and it could go into effect as early as next year if it passes.

There are pros and cons to the current scenario — as well as the proposal.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews speaks with the media after OTAs open practice at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)
Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said he doesn’t mind how the NFL’s offseason calendar is set up. (Kevin Richardson/Staff)

In the current format, players can stay sharp or begin to work their way back into form in the lower-stress environment of practicing without pads and contact. Rookies and those on the roster bubble can put in time to learn and execute the playbook. And players coming off significant injuries can ease their way back onto the field.

“I don’t really mind [the way it’s set up right now],” said tight end Mark Andrews, who missed the final six games of the regular season and Baltimore’s divisional round playoff game last season with an ankle injury. “I think this is a good time period of guys coming back here, working. You’re able to get with the team, get the plays in, and then you get that extra break off, which is kind of nice for your body. It’s kind of nice for everything, just getting your head back right, but I don’t know the right answer to that.”

The new proposal, meanwhile, would allow for a longer layoff after the season, possibly fewer injuries and perhaps provide for more continuity leading into training camp. On Thursday, for example, Jackson, outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, running back Derrick Henry, tight end Mark Andrews and safety Kyle Hamilton were among the 18 absences.

“I’m a coach,” Harbaugh said when asked if he was worried about players not there falling behind. “We want to be going forward as fast as we can — no drag, making ground, getting better every day. One percent better today than yesterday, 1% better tomorrow than today, and it takes a lot of work to do that. So, as a coach, that’s what you’re always looking for.”

One way to mitigate that concern would be to do away with voluntary OTAs altogether.

There would be no worry about who is or isn’t there and it could assuage issues that both sides have. The proposal is also said to have support among players, according to reports.

But Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens, a regular attendee and in the final year of his rookie contract, said he sees the value of each scenario.

“It would be good to have a longer break, and then once we’re here, get it going,” he said. “But whichever way it goes, we’ll all be ready for it.”

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson works out during team OTA open practice session. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)
Quarterback Lamar Jackson attended at least one of the Ravens’ organized team activities last month but has been recently working out with wide receivers Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor in South Florida. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff)

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