The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement restricts the start of the "voluntary" offseason conditioning program much more severely than the previous one. In fact, offseason workouts would have started several weeks ago if this was 2009. But, now, in 2012, the official start date for NFL offseason workouts is the third Monday in April. Unless, your team changed head coaches.
Art 21, Sect. 2 (a):If a Club hires a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, that Club may schedule or conduct an offseason workout program for no more than nine total weeks, with eight of the weeks required to be consecutive and subject to Article 22, Section 3, to be completed over a twelve-week period.
Art 21, Sect. 2 (c):Each year offseason workout programs cannot begin prior to the first Monday in April for Clubs that have hired a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, and cannot begin prior to the third Monday in April for all other Clubs.
There are six NFL teams that fit that definition. Along with our own Miami Dolphins, the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville, Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and Tampa Bay Buccaneersmay all begin their offseason programs today.
The nine week program is broken into three separate phases, according to the CBA:
Phase One.Phase One shall consist of the first two weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. Phase One activities shall be limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. During Phase One, only full-time or part-time strength and conditioning coaches, who have no other coaching responsibilities with the Club, shall be allowed on the field; no other coaches shall be allowed on the field or to otherwise participate in or observe activities. No footballs shall be permitted to be used (only "dead ball" activities), except that quarterbacks may elect to throw to receivers provided they are not covered by any other player. Players cannot wear helmets during Phase One.
Phase Two.Phase Two shall consist of the next three weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. During Phase Two all coaches shall be allowed on the field. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills, as well as "perfect play" drills (e.g., offense or defense only, but not offense vs. defense), or special teams drills on a "separates" basis (e.g .. , kicking team or return team only, but not kicking team vs. return team) . No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted. No offense vs. defense drills are permitted (e.g .. , no one-on-one offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted.) Players cannot wear helmets during Phase Two.
Phase Three.Phase Three shall consist of the next four weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. During Phase Three each Club may conduct a total of ten days of organized team practice activity ("OTAs" or "OTA days"). The Club may conduct a maximum of three days of OTAs during each of the first two weeks of Phase Three. A maximum of four days of OTAs may be conducted during either the third week or the fourth week of Phase Three, with the Mandatory Veteran Minicamp to be held during the other week. During weeks in which the Club conducts only three days of OTAs, the Club may also conduct a fourth day of non-OTA workouts, but such activities shall be subject to the rules governing Phase Two workouts. During Phase Three, all coaches shall be allowed on the field. No live contact is permitted. No one-on-one offense vs. defense drills are permitted (i.e., no offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen pass rush or pass protection drills, no wide receivers vs. defensive backs bump-and-run drills, and no one-on-one special teams drills involving both offense and defense are permitted) . Special teams drills (e.g., kicking team vs. return team) are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Team offense vs. team defense drills, including all drills listed in Appendix G to this Agreement, are permitted, provided no live contact occurs. Clubs may require players to wear helmets; no shells are permitted during Phase Three of the Club's offseason workout program or any minicamp.
While it's still a long time from meaningful football, we've officially reached the point in the offseason when the Dolphins can get back out on the fields and start working. And, after last year's poor conditioning to start the season, this hasn't come soon enough.
[UPDATE: The Dolphins will not begin their offseason program until April 10.]