New Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Cary Williams caught some major flack recently for skipping the club’s voluntary OTAs. A quick look in the dictionary could have saved a lot of people a lot of time on this non-issue.
Voluntary is an adjective. The Free Dictionary defines the word as such: “Done or undertaken of one’s own free will.” In other words, you do it if you want to. Williams chose not to participate in these voluntary team activities. The reaction would’ve made you think he committed treason.
Williams, fresh off a Super Bowl title with the Baltimore Ravens, was refreshingly honest about his choice to skip the OTAs. In fact, he listed exactly what he was doing. Instead of sweating it out with the other Birds, Williams was overseeing the building of a new home, getting a procedure done at the dentist, and taking in his 3-year-old daughter’s dance recital.
Fans went berserk. They wrote letters, called sports radio, and even threatened to give up their season tickets. This from a group that welcomed Mike Vick with open arms.
Let’s review. The NFL has rules in place that clearly make offseason workouts and organized team activities voluntary. If you want the players to be there, then “voluntary” needs to be taken out of the equation. Granted, most teams do have very high turnouts at these events, but in the end they are really not required. I’m sure if Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly asked Williams to please be there, his request would have been accommodated. That said, are these OTAs really worth a hill of beans anyway? So many players do not think so.
The ridiculous part of all of this is the convoluted logic used against Williams. I heard more than one person bring up the money issue in their displeasure with his decision to miss OTAs. One caller to a radio show argued Williams doesn’t have to attend his daughter’s dance show because he makes so much money and she will eventually get much of that money. That one floored me. Obviously that caller doesn’t have a little girl. Trust me, I know from experience, a 3-year old daughter wants daddy at her recital and could care less about money or material things.
Philadelphia has been through a couple of similar situations in the past. We all remember Allen Iverson’s now infamous “It’s just practice” incident. More recently, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins decided to miss some regular season games to be with his wife as she delivered the couple’s first child. Good for Rollins.
I say good for Williams too. He knows what it takes to win. He doesn’t miss mandatory team activities. Above all, not only is it his choice to attend OTAs, but choosing his daughter over these over-the-top get-togethers is actually admirable.
In a league filled with guys who have multiple children from multiple mothers and in many cases don’t even know their own kids, Williams is taking pride in being a father and a husband. He’s also a tremendous player and a few missed OTAs is not going to change that one bit.
Some players and coaches should learn from Williams. In a day and age where some sleep at the stadium as if to say “look at me, I’m putting in the most work,” Williams is prioritizing things like a dad should. After awhile there’s only so much film study you can do. You can only work out so much. Studying Xs and Os is great, but at some point you have it down or you don’t. Your children are only little once. Williams is being there as a father and he is a World Champion to boot.
Until these activities are mandatory, I don’t care if a player misses them to lay on the couch and eat cereal all day. Voluntary is voluntary. The fact that Williams had a legitimate reason for his absence just crystallizes the meaning of voluntary even more.