Like all schedule-driven corporations in America and around the world, the NFL is no different. And yet, what a difference a year makes.

At this time last year, team captains, leaders and players were organizing their own workouts because of the lockout, and lost the window of opportunity to get better. With that firmly behind them, squads are finally back in their normal comfort zones, and the process of getting organized from a football business point of view is well under way. It started with free agency and continued with the annual NFL draft. Coaches are now busy formulating their 2012 strategic game plans and breaking down opponents’ tendencies based off of 2011 film. Teaching and developing players, both mentally and physically, remains the key to the future success of an NFL franchise. While fan support also proves invaluable in getting a team charged up for what lies ahead, the coaching staff’s cultivation of the proper mindset for players as they enter a grueling 20-week stretch – which includes both the preseason and regular season – is of the greatest importance.

The new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) between the NFL and the NFLPA has reduced OTAs (organized team activities) from 14-day practice sessions to 10 days. A very close eye is kept on all 32 teams, not allowing any club to squeeze in an extra practice day or potentially upset the level playing field. When working in the NFL around this time of year, I would hear head coaches with whom I collaborated, and those on other teams, state that these workouts are strictly “voluntary.” Riiiiight. There are only some that are mandatory, but I would laugh every time I heard such a broad-stroke statement. Players who don’t have the incentive clause or workout bonus in their contracts had better be at all OTAs and minicamps; it’s just an unwritten rule among coaches and players, if you truly want to be considered for the 53-man roster.

The structure in place encourages those involved to rise early and grab some breakfast prior to a team meeting, which is generally followed by positional meetings or a weightlifting session. An on-field practice session ensues later and lets players get a good lather, while receiving teaching and coaching points that are engrained into their muscle memory and will carry through training camp as well as the grind of the season.

Several great coaches have talked about preparation many times, and from several speeches I have listened to over the years the same words kept coming up: journey, provision, measurement, future, experience, training, homework, organization and finish line. These same words are used today to describe the NFL offseason, during which 32 organizations push to excel and strive for excellence through development that starts now.

Offseason Workout Schedules:

TEAM OTA DATES MINICAMP DATES

Arizona May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Atlanta May 29-31; June 5-7, 12-15 June 19-21

Baltimore May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Buffalo May 29, May 31-June 1; June 5, 7-8, 11-12, 14-15 June 19-21

Carolina May 22-24, May 30-June 1; June 4-7 June 12-14

Chicago May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Cincinnati May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Cleveland May 22-24, May 30-June 1; June 12-15 June 5-7

Dallas May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Denver May 21-23, May 30-June 1; June 4-7 June 12-14

Detroit May 21-22, 24, 29, May 31-June 1; June 4-5, 7-8 June 12-14

Green Bay May 21-23, May 30-June 1; June 5-8 June 12-14

Houston May 21-22, 24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Indianapolis May 15-17, 22-24; June 4-7 June 12-14

Jacksonville May 15-17, 22-24, May 29-June 1 June 12-14

Kansas City May 21-22, 24, 29, May 31-June 1; June 4-5, 7-8 June 12-14

Miami May 22-24, 29-31; June 11-14 June 19-21

Minnesota May 29-31; June 5-7, 11-14 June 19-21

New England May 21-22, 24, 29-31; June 4-5, 7-8 June 12-14

New Orleans May 22-24, 29-31; June 11-14 June 5-7

New York Giants May 23-24, May 30-June 1; June 4-5, 7-8 June 12-14

New York Jets May 21, 23-24, 29, May 31-June 1; June 4, 6-7 June 12-14

Oakland May 17, 21-22, 24; June 4-7 June 12-14

Philadelphia May 22-24, May 30-June 1; June 4-7 June 12-14

Pittsburgh May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

St. Louis May 15-16, 18, 22-23, 25; June 5-8 June 12-14

San Diego May 29-31; June 5-7, 11-14 June 19-21

San Francisco May 22-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14

Seattle May 22-24, May 30-June 1; June 4-7 June 12-14

Tampa Bay May 17-18, 21-22, 24; June 4-5, 7-8 June 12-14

Tennessee May 30-June 1; June 5-7, 11-12, 14-15 June 19-21

Washington May 21, 23-24, 29-31; June 4-7 June 12-14