INDIANAPOLIS – Interesting concept: optional work.
Not many people can relate. Generally speaking, work is mandatory for the paycheck. But the NFL is different. The NFL has periods where on-site work is optional or, in the league's language, voluntary.
Indianapolis Colts safety LaRon Landry doesn't do optional.
He's well within his rights, as negotiated by the NFL Players Association as part of the collective bargaining agreement. He works out on his own, building his chiseled frame. Go find him on Twitter and see. Yet there's a catch: Landry is the only Colts player who has opted not to attend the optional organized team activities (OTAs), instead reporting Tuesday (he wasn't on the field or available to the media) for mandatory three-day veteran mini-camp.
Does that make him less of a team player? It sure seems that way from the outside.
Landry did not participate in the first day of mini-camp Tuesday, a session open to the media. Others missed it, too, including defensive end Cory Redding who was excused for a family matter, and injured or recovering wide receiver Reggie Wayne, cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Delano Howell.
All of the above players, except Landry, have been around the complex this offseason.
“LaRon's here,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday after practice. “LaRon, as you know, works probably as hard as anybody. Wish he was here most of the time, but I know that he's working and he probably does too much. So he's away still getting looked at by our doctors, going through a physical and things like that.”
Pagano said he understands that not every player (in this case, one Colt) participates in the optional team activities. He says he doesn't think it necessarily detracts from the player's development or preparation for the season.
“Again, it's voluntary,” Pagano said. “Everywhere I've been there's been a guy here or there that's missed. I think two probably first ballot Hall of Famers that I was fortunate enough to coach in Baltimore missed some offseason time, and I think they're going to be first ballot Hall-of-Famers. I'm not worried about it, being ready to go.”
What else is Pagano going to say? He's smart enough to know that nothing good can come within the team of singling a player out in a negative manner. In the long run, Landry will be back for training camp in July and everyone will move on with their preparation. It's a little odd that he didn't participate in the first of three mandatory mini-camp practices.
I can see Landry's point of view. If something is considered voluntary or optional, then that's what it is. You don't have to participate. You're not skipping out of anything or missing required work. He thinks he can train better away from the complex, and he's not the first player to do so. As Pagano points out, there are examples of players who continue to thrive regardless.
But it just seems a little short-sighted from the outside. If your goal is to become a better team, to do everything possible to become a Super Bowl contender, wouldn't you want to be at the workouts everyone else is attending?
The offseason would seem to be the best time to get to know new teammates, to develop team chemistry and to bond in a little lower-key environment.
“We've made great progress,” Pagano said. “We'd like to clean things up and finish strong going into training camp come July 23…We've got a long ways to go, but we feel like as a staff we're much farther ahead than we've ever been as a unit.”
Does it matter if one member of the unit hasn't been around this offseason? Does it matter that one member takes “voluntary” literally and only shows up when contractually required? Maybe it does. Or maybe those of us on the outside don't understand the dynamic.
Landry violates no team rules by skipping all optional work. It might feel wrong to the rest of us, but only those inside know if it makes a difference at all. They're not likely to tell the world if it does. When you think about it, that demonstrates a real team approach at its core.