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What is allowed during NFL offseason training programs? Why can Dolphins report early? And no holdout from Xavien Howard

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Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are back in the team’s training facilities today, opening their offseason training program and starting to prepare for the 2019 season. Miami is one of eight teams that can open their offseason training program today, as the league allows teams with new head coaches to open their programs two weeks ahead of the rest of the league. The Dolphins hired former New England Patriots defensive play caller Brian Flores this offseason to replace Adam Gase.

Teams with returning head coaches will start their programs around April 15.

The offseason training program is broken into three phases. The phases build upon each other, starting with conditioning and strength work and film reviews through to actual on-field training. The program also includes the “Organized Team Activities,” or OTAs, and the only mandatory offseason event, a three-day minicamp.

Phase one, which begins today, features conditioning and strength workouts, with no positional work allowed. Players who need rehab work can receive treatment. This phase lasts for two weeks.

Week three of the offseason program begins the second phase of the period. This three-week section allows for on-field workouts, with individual player instruction and drills. Teams can also hold “separates” practices - basically, no live contact and no team offense versus defense drills.

Week six through nine of the offseason program will feature 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 team practices, but without live contact. This period will include the ten days of OTAs as well as the veteran minicamp. The Dolphins will hold their OTAs between May 13 and May 31, according to the team’s website, with a voluntary minicamp April 16-18 and a mandatory minicamp June 4-6. The Dolphins can add the voluntary minicamp this year as part of the league’s allowances for teams with new head coaches.

Miami will also hold a three-day rookie minicamp, in either a league mandated window of May 3-6 or May 10-13, though that event has not been finalized yet.

The offseason training program is a voluntary program, other than the mandatory minicamp, for the players, though it is assumed they will show up. There was thought cornerback Xavien Howard could have skipped the workouts, starting a holdout as he looks for a new contract. However, the Pro Bowl cornerback did report to the training facility on Monday, and, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly, negotiations between Howard and the team have been underway the last two weeks and are expected to continue this week.

Howard, who arrived at the team’s facility at the same time as running back Kenyan Drake as two of the first players to show up, is slated to count for just $1.95 million against the salary cap this season. He is believed to be looking for a new contract that will pay him among the elite cornerbacks in the league, with an annual average around $15 million per season.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Dolphins currently have about $27 million in salary cap space this offseason. OverTheCap.com estimates Miami with about $10 million more in cap space.