OTAs are a key date in Packers’ ‘championship offseason’

Many players on this Packers team returned to Green Bay on Monday for voluntary Organized Team Activities (OTAs), a key checkpoint in what needs to be a “championship offseason.”

That mantra, championship offseason, was coined by Preston Smith in the locker room immediately following the Packers’ NFC Divisional Round loss to San Francisco. For a team with high expectations coming into 2024, it’s a reminder of how they need to attack each day over the offseason.

“We’ve got to have a championship offseason,” said Smith back in January, “so everything rolls into the season because, at the end of the day, those games come back to following your training, trusting your technique, and trusting everything you worked hard for this offseason. Coming into this next season, we’ve got to focus on the things that we can improve on, make sure that our weaknesses are our strengths, and we improve on the things we’re good at.”

The Packers’ locker room the day after that playoff loss was a mixture of disappointment, and understandably so with how close they were to playing in the NFC Championship Game, but there was also quite a bit of optimism about what lies ahead.

This is an offense led by Jordan Love that, for a fairly long stretch, was operating as one of the best in football. Even on the defensive side of the ball that battled ups and downs and never quite found the consistency that was needed, a strong foundation is in place, with players like Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Quay Walker, and Jaire Alexander.

Outside of the building, there is already a lot of talk nationally about the Packers being a Super Bowl contender in 2024. And inside the organization, that is the expectation as well.

“To take it all the way,” said Elgton Jenkins at his locker in January. “Most definitely. Get better as an offense, trust in the process, and get better individually so that collectively, we can be better and take it all the way.”

A key element to Matt LaFleur’s parting message to the team as they wrapped up the 2023 season was that nothing was guaranteed in the NFL. While expectations are high heading into the new season, and in theory, with such a young group of players and now a new defensive coordinator, the team should be able to take a step forward, that isn’t a given either.

Capitalizing on the opportunity ahead starts with how each individual player approaches the offseason. April 15th, the first day of voluntary OTAs is a key measuring stick moment in the offseason to see how much progress was made.

Prior to each player leaving Green Bay back in January, their position coaches gave each of them one or two things to work on with the expectation being that those boxes can be checked in April with then more added to their plates.

“I also re-iterated to them that just because we got to a certain spot doesn’t mean that’s guaranteed moving forward,” said LaFleur. “So, what are we going to do to get better? And the expectation is that when they come back April 15th, they’re better than the team that left today and that’s not just going to happen by chance. You’ve got to work at it, and you’ve got to put in a lot of hard work, you’ve got to have a great plan.

“The coaches are meeting with each individual right now and giving them one to two things to kind of work on over these next three months, and then hopefully we’ll work on those things and then give ‘em something new when they come back.”

Monday, April 15th, is considered phase one of the offseason programs. It is two weeks long and will consist of strength and conditioning workouts, along with meetings with coaches. Once those two weeks have passed, on-field walkthrough drills can take place.

The next official week of OTAs will then be held on May 20th, 21st, and 23rd. Followed by May 29th, 30th, and 31st, with OTAs concluding with three practices on the week of June 3rd.

Mandatory minicamp will be held on June 11th, 12th, and 13th. Not to be forgotten about is rookie minicamp, which will take place as well, usually during the week after the NFL Draft.

“Like I told the team,” added LaFleur, “you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. You’re never staying the same. I think the expectations are going to be higher. I think our standards that we’ve developed over the course of the year through our process, to how we practice, to how we go out and compete, I would expect them to continue to improve. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get better.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire