The NFL season is over. No more early mornings, no more smack talk over Fantasy Football, no more laughing at Blaine Gabbert freak out in a collapsing pocket. For those who take an interest in other sports, the offseason wait isn't too bad. This is particularly true for the AFL fans - the two sporting seasons transition seamlessly into one another. That is, of course, unless you are a Demons supporter and regularly dread the start of any AFL season in fear of yet another year of embarrassment and disappointment. But fear not! Yes, the offseason has arrived but it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Don't worry, we'll get you through it. Below is everything you need to know about the NFL offseason, in chronological order. We'll show you how exciting it is, that's our promise. Aren't we nice? Let's go! **Please note: These are all Australian days & dates. Times are EST.
2012 NFL SCOUTING COMBINE
When: Thursday, February 23- Wednesday, February 29th. Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis First up is the NFL combine, where scouts, coaches, managers and, well, the entire world get a glimpse of the upcoming draft pool via physical and mental tests. Over 300 exciting college prospects look to solidify their NFL careers by impressing onlookers in hope to boost their draft position. It's not the easiest time for these youngsters - they have to overcome nerves and keep a cool head. Everything they've been training for comes down to this loaded week. A list of the tests - physical, mental and intellectual - include:
- 40-yard dash
- Bench press (225 lb, or 102 kg)
- Vertical jump
- Broad jump
- 20-yard shuttle
- Drills per players' specific position
- Interviews with teams
- Injury evaluation/drug screen etc.
FREE AGENCY PERIODWhen: Wednesday, March 14th at 8am and beyond. Where: Well, everywhere. Arguably one of the most exciting times of the NFL offseason, the free agency period sees NFL teams try to fill gaps in their roster by offering huge contracts to some of the best unrestricted and out of contract players. And this year, there are some big names. Huge names. Perhaps the best part of this crazed period is the hype leading up to it, with analysts, experts and the general public making bold predictions as to where players might land. It's also an immensely important time for teams, as this is a golden chance for them to boost their roster if their draft position isn't overly helpful. Some key free agents in 2012 who may change teams include:
- Mario Williams - Houston Texans.
- Jermichael Finley - Green Bay Packers.
- Mike Tolbert - San Diego Chargers
- Matt Forte - Chicago Bears.
- Vincent Jackson - San Diego Chargers.
- DeSean Jackson -Philadelphia Eagles.
- Dwayne Bowe - Kansas City Chiefs.
- Marshawn Lynch - Seattle Seahawks.
- Matt Flynn - Green Bay Packers.
- Peyton Manning?
2012 NFL DRAFTWhen: Friday, April 27-29th (times TBA). Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York. The Draft may just edge free agency as the most anticipated - and important - part of the NFL offseason. Franchises wrap up hours of film and combine analysis by selecting young college players to help bolster their roster and hopefully kickstart their teams' future. What makes the draft so entertaining is the prospect of trading certain picks for other higher picks/players, in order to help a team grab a key player they desire. For example, in 2011, Cleveland gave up its sixth overall pick for Atlanta's first, second and fourth round picks, alongside the Falcon's first and fourth round selection in 2012. This allowed Atlanta to get their hands on WR Julio Jones. A crazy move? Maybe, time will tell. I'm leaning towards yes. The 2012 NFL draft in particular is drawing a plethora of attention given the extreme talent and depth of players. We all know Stanford QB Andrew Luck is headed to Indianapolis, but where will Baylor QB Robert Griffin III land? Will the Browns trade up and snag him, given their stockpile of draft picks? Or will the Rams hold tightly onto that No.2 pick and secure their WR of the future? If there's only one downside to the draft, it's the endless amounts of online mock drafts. They're great initially, then they become good, then they just become ridiculous. No-one wants to sit through Mark Schlereth's Mock Draft 12.0.
ROOKIE MINICAMPSWhen: Sometime in late April/early May (specific dates TBA). Where: Team-specific training areas These minicamps, which usually run for around three days, allow recently-drafted players to become familiar with their new team and the facilities, while meeting the coaching staff and some of the teammates they'll be playing alongside. The camps also allow the rookies to get a grasp of the team's playbook and gives the coaching staff a first-hand look to assess their newest acquisitions. For the most part, coaches are pleased with what they see. But for some there's always that brief moment of "oh dear, what have we done...". (I assume that's what went through Jack Del Rio's head during last year's rookie minicamp. Okay, fine, enough bashing of the Jags). Much power is vested in the head coach, who can decide who must attend the camps, what drills are undertaken and how long the sessions run for.
ORGANISED TEAM ACTIVITIES (OTA's)When: Mid-may, continuing into June. Where: Team-specific training areas The OTA's see players re-unite and train as a team, usually in two to three day spans. The aim is simple - develop the roster, plan and learn new schemes and continue to give rookies a chance to familiarise themselves with the NFL world. Under the new NFL CBA, teams are allowed a maximum of 10 OTA's, compared to 14 in previous seasons. These OTA's are generally the only time playing groups can collaborate and train together in the offseason before official training camps begin. The full squad isn't always required to attend, but teams often host at least one mandatory minicamp where it is compulsory for every player.
TRAINING CAMPSWhen: Beginning in July (specific dates TBA). Where: Team-specific training areas Training camps are the real deal. It's the time where teams switch into overdrive and start properly preparing themselves for the upcoming season. The playbook is mastered, positions are determined, and the player rosters are cut down to the mandatory 53-man list. Not only are drills and scrimmages performed, but the training camps also include gym sessions, position-orientated meetings and lectures. It's also a time for the new players and rookies to become fully integrated into their respective teams. Fans are welcome to attend open sessions and it's often a good time for them to meet their favourite players while watching them train. But not all sessions are available to the public, often the camps that are used to execute detailed game plans will be closed.
OTHER KEY DATES:
- Franchise tags may be announced - February 21sh-March 6th.
- Trade period opens - Wednesday, March 14th at 8am.
- NFL Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - August 6th, Canton, Ohio.
- Team rosters to be cut to 80 players - August 29th.
- Team rosters to be cut to 53 players - September 3rd.