The NFL's off-season schedule was released yesterday. Per NBC Sports, the Atlanta Falcons will begin their 10 week voluntary mini-camp April 22nd.
Most people don't realize this, but the collective bargaining agreement heavily regulates off-season programming. Unfortunately, and for reasons you probably don't understand unless you were an NFL player in a former life, they take all the fun out of it.
Your mini-camp can only span 10 weeks, 9 of which can be consecutive. The workouts are entirely voluntary, which is why some vets choose not to participate. There can only be 4 workouts a week, and no workouts can be scheduled on weekends. If players so choose, they can do individual workouts before the actual mini-camp starts, but coaches can't be involved, other than making sure you don't squish yourself with free weights.
Mini-camps are divided into three phases. Sounds complicated, doesn't it? In the first phase (the first two weeks), players just work on their conditioning. Non-conditioning coaches can't even interact with the players. In the second phase (the next three weeks), players can run through the motions with coaches, but no offense vs. defense-type drills are allowed. There's also no contact allowed. In the third phase (the next four weeks), you can do almost anything, provided there's no contact.
Don't get me wrong, I understand why mini-camps are so structured. To that effect, it's nice to see the guys running around again and the rookies getting acclimated. It's just that I'm pining for real football, as I'm sure all of you are.