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A Falcons fan’s guide to not putting too much stock into OTAs

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We’re getting some football practice in our lives again, but you won’t want to put all your hopes and dreams into it.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Training Camp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We’re officially a few days away from the team’s first organized team activities session on May 30, which means we’re edging closer to training camp. I really can’t wait for training camp.

With the arrival of OTAs comes the arrival of the hand-wringing. As Falcons fans, we’ve had a first class seat to this, with every other team in the NFL having started their sessions already, and with fans and pundits overreacting to everything from Kelvin Benjamin’s weight to how good the Saints defense looks, if you can imagine that.

This is not to say you shouldn’t absorb every scrap of information you can about OTAs—there will be good stuff in there—but there’s several things to ignore or not worry about.

Don’t read into who isn’t there

OTAs are voluntary. The Falcons tend to have pretty great attendance for these things, but there may be players who don’t show. Judging by some of the reactions I’ve seen in other fanbases to players who haven’t shown up for OTAs, This Is A Big Deal.

It’s really not, though. While everything in the NFL that is voluntary is not really voluntary due to the scrutiny and laser-like stares of coaches, players can choose not to be at OTAs. Missing a handful of days with the team isn’t going to torpedo anyone, and you shouldn’t pretend it’s going to.

Don’t care about who is in the best shape of their lives

It’s almost always meaningless. Deion Jones adding some bulk isn’t going to hurt him in the slightest, and may help him hold up to the rigors of a long season. It’s not going to help him take the next step as much as another year of film study, practice, and experience will, to say nothing of his raw talent. You’ve heard this said about everyone from Jamaal Anderson to Brooks Reed, and it’s rare that we see an eye-popping improvement because of it.

On the flip side, if Matt Ryan shows up with love handles and a waxed mustache, you also shouldn’t worry. You may have questions, but don’t worry, because there’s plenty of time to take care of that between now and training camp.

Don’t put too much stock into who looks good and who doesn’t

This is the hardest one for me, a guy who writes multiple blog posts per day and tends to over-scrutinize the smallest things. You just can’t read too much into OTAs, minicamps, and even extremely early training camp. We do it every year, and every year we get unreasonably excited about a wide receiver who doesn’t make the team.

So there you have it. Set those expectations now, and we should have some good stuff to talk about in a few days.