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Football 101: What is the difference between OTAs and minicamp?

Our football 101 series adds the difference between OTAs and minicamp.

NFL: Miami Dolphins-OTA Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins completed their last four days of the league’s allowed 10 total days of Organized Team Activities on Thursday. Under league rules, teams can hold OTAs during phase three of their offseason training program, with no more than four consecutive days of practices, and no weekend workouts, scheduled. They may also, in week three or four of phase three hold a mandatory veteran minicamp, which will be four days in length, with three days of practices.

So, both OTAs and minicamp are limited to three or four days of practices. Other than the word “mandatory” included in the minicamp, is there a difference between the two events?

Organized Team Activities

Article 21 of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association defines “offseason workouts” and what is permissible during each phase of the training period, to include the OTAs. Phase Three of the offseason training program consists of the final four weeks of the period. OTAs are limited to 10 total days, with “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 the OTAs, all coaches are allowed on the field (in the earlier phases, there were limits on coaches), but there shall be no live contact, and there cannot be any one-on-one offense versus defense drills (for example, one cornerback versus one wide receiver or one offensive lineman versus one defensive lineman). Team drills (offense versus defense) and special teams drills are allowed, as long as there is no live contact, and helmets are authorized, but no other pads are permitted.

Organized team activities, as well as the rest of the offseason training program, excluding the mandatory minicamp, are voluntary. A team cannot indicate that the workouts are not voluntary or that “a player’s failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in the player’s failure to make the Club or result in other adverse consequences affecting his working conditions.”

Teams may only suggest a two-hour time block for a player to be at the team facility, and each player is limited to 4 hours per day of OTAs. A player can choose when to go to the facility and when to leave.


Under Article 22 of the CBA, teams are authorized one mandatory minicamp for veteran players during Phase Three of the offseason program. Teams that have hired a new head coach since the end of the preceding season may hold one voluntary minicamp prior to the Draft and three weeks after the start of the team’s offseason workout program. Miami was able to hold this voluntary camp having hired Adam Gase as the new head coach this year.

The mandatory minicamp must be conducted during a work week (Monday through Friday), and can only be three days in length, with one additional day for physical examinations. The physicals will take place on the first day of the minicamp, and no practices or workouts may be conducted on the day.

Teams may hold two-a-day practices during two of the three days of on-field workouts during the minicamp, and Friday must be an off-day. The rules for the practices include limits on the amount of total time a player may be on the field (3.5 hours per day), and the length of any one practice (2.5 hours). The second practice can be used for any remaining length of time after the first practice is completed (not to exceed 2.5 hours), and can only be a walk-through instruction.

Players are allowed to be at the team facility for 10 hours per day, not including two authorized one-hour meal times. Teams cannot begin workouts prior to 7am local, and cannot keep players past 8:30pm local.

Once again, no contact is allowed, and all of the limitations on one-on-one drills and helmets only remain in effect during the minicamp.

A player who fails to report to the mandatory minicamp may be fined $12,765 for the first missed day. That fine amount increases by an additional $12,765 for each subsequent day, meaning two missed days would be a $38,290 fine ($12,765 for day one plus $25,525 for day two) and three missed days a $76,580 fine.

Media coverage

According to the NFL’s Media Policy, local media must be allowed access to OTAs and minicamp. During OTAs, one of every three days has to be open to the media, meaning four total days of the 10 must be allowed to be viewed by the media. During the mandatory minicamp, the media will have access to all practices.

Players and coaches must also be made available to the media on any day in which the media is allowed at practice.

OTAs versus Minicamp

Essentially, minicamp is a more robust version of OTAs. It is now mandatory, so every player will (should) be there. Teams can also dictate what time of day the players are at the facility, rather than “suggesting” two hour blocks, and they get to keep the player in the facility for a much longer time period (10 hours for minicamp rather than 4 hours during OTAs). The practices are still contact- and pads-free, but teams can now practice in the morning for 2.5 hours, then go in, have lunch, and come back out for a one-hour walk-through later in the day, where they can fix things that were not right at the morning practice, or they can start installing things to work on in the next practice.

Minicamp feels more like training camp than an OTA, though training camp does eventually transition into pads.

And, possibly as the most interesting part of the difference between minicamp and OTAs, at least for fans wanting information about their team, is the expanded media access during minicamp.