In case you didn't know, the NFL-esque coach-speak term "OTA" stands for "Organized Team Activities". This would differentiate what is happening now from the 2005 regular season offense under Charlie and Maurice, which was glossed "DTA".
Unfortunately, these OTA's have been a bit too eventful. What we should be hoping for is that everyone, especially the D linemen, are in reasonable shape, no one is lost due to injury, and the defense is starting a smooth transition to the new leadership of Mel Tucker. Those of us who have Browns' OCD can see the actual footage of pumpkins on top of shells that serves as our methadone until the real thing starts back up later this summer.
Unfortunately, what has occurred so far is a debilitating injury to a key player on the thinnest and least experienced position group on the team, the (temporary?) loss of an offensive lineman, and a holdout / non-hold out - depending on who you believe - by one of the best players who has years remaining on his contract.
Let's take it from the top.
The biggest news is the season ending before it began knee injury to Devon Holly. Simply put, it isn't good news. What only a few months ago had been one of the deepest and most talented squads on the Browns is now inspiring cries of "ICEBERG! DEAD AHEAD!" The team had a solid, if somewhat fragile, young vet holding down one corner position for the next half-decade in Leigh Bodden. They had a promising rookie who was among the steals of 2007's draft in Eric "Eazy E" Wright. Backing them up was a home-grown talent in Devon Holly, who would be among the better nickel backs in the league were he healthy, as well as NFL vet Kenny Wright, who had been an NFL starter with Washington. Rounding out this deep depth and making this squad legitimately 5 deep was the development of Brandon McDonald, the long awaited mid-round draft defensive back "hit" for Phil after several failures. Following Kenny Wright's ganja troubles with The Man and his release, the trade of Bodden for the mercurial Shaun Rogers to help the abysmal defensive line, the loss of Devon Holly should minimally elicit concern from any intelligent fan, and possibly cause panic for any ledge dwellers. Expect the Browns to see lots of three receiver sets, and hold your breath that the season we were poised to take next the step to the playoffs doesn't implode with the Browns' pass defense being analogous to the Tribe's offense. Already, Phil is hard at work rebuilding the depth as he can by inking grey beard Terry Cousin. You have to give Opie credit for being aggressive, but there is reason to be concerned that the damage is done. If Eazy E and B Mac are the starting corner duo, they possess a combined total of 15 NFL starts of experience between them. Phil now faces the uncomfortable choice of mortgaging more future draft choices as he already enters the 2009 rounds missing two picks, or burning through cap room by overpaying some has-beens. I am now as nervous as Rain Man at 3:59 when People's Court starts at 4:00 and there's no TV in sight.
In other news, Kellen "The Souljah" Winslow is noticeably absent. I am really not all that into the ethics and analysis of his contract issues. I'm not about debating that getting paid for nothing for two seasons justifies him making less now or whatever. All I know is that it is a business when we want it to be a game and vice versa, like the man told us years ago in North Dallas Forty. Now there is the question of whether K2 is just rehabbing on his own or sending a message. I could be wrong, but I am about 99% sure KW rehabbed in Berea last year, and did so with extraordinary dedication. I recall that he and Braylon Edwards bonded during last off season while rehabbing in Berea together. So if KW is changing his routine, this is a departure. Me? I think The Drew doth protest too much. Check it out and see if you agree. I'm just sayin'.
We've also heard some good news about how Donte Stallworth may add another dimension and that he and DA have already been around working hard to develop chemistry. That's cool. While we all love Joe J for what he brings, he's not a spring chicken and he made the mistake of setting foot within that place they go for treatment that shall remain nameless and picked up a case of staph. Shocking! Having a speedy vet like Donte on the other side of Braylon promises to pick up what is already a potent passing attack - provided KW2 shows up and is healthy.
I wish there was other news we could dive into, but all you really read and hear are various baubles and snippets. Good stuff, to be sure, for the Browns' obsessed junkie by those dedicated souls who provide us with information, but much of what is going on is really tangential. All of which leads me to pretty much conclude that OTA's are the equivalent of curfews for adolescents. They serve as a quasi-mandatory means for the coaches to bring in the players in the off season and scope them out. Who has kept in shape if they didn't work out at Berea 365? Who needs to get what done before training camp conditioning-wise? Who needs the crash series of skull sessions to get ready for June and July, and who is doing his homework learning the new schemes? I guess in this day and age of truly professional football this is all routine and necessary. But personally, if we could just keep the cats in one piece during OTA's I'd be happy. Let's get through the June mini-camp and bring on July! The early 1970's have returned at the gas pump and with our Cleveland sports' scene as well. The Tribe is getting into position for an old fashioned June swoon as surely as if I see Ken Aspromonte in the dugout, and the Cavs are out of the playoffs. All we have as fans to look ahead to is training camp when they strap it on for real.