Ok, this referring to mini-camps and OTAs as “voluntary” has got to stop. Time and again in many organizations, players are told that the camps at this time of the year are voluntary. Yet, every day, we read about a player who is not attending these “voluntary” team activities for whatever reason and these guys are vilified by their teams and especially the media. Something has to give. I think the word “voluntary” just needs to be dropped because it seems that non-attendees are frowned upon as though they’ve missed a “mandatory” camp.
I look at the situation in Cincinnati with Odell Thurman. Let me preface my point here by saying the guy has major character issues and based on his history in the league already, he probably should have done everything he could have done to get to camp. And, I get the whole Marvin Lewis trying to put his foot down thing too (though it’s really too late for that really – Lewis probable needs to go). However, this was a “voluntary” camp and Thurman was late showing up due to the death of a significant family member – the grandmother who raised him. If he had missed the start of a mandatory training camp in a similar fashion without communicating with the team, I could see how that it would be a bigger problem, but for a voluntary OTA camp, this is harsh.
I also look at the Jason Taylor situation in Miami. I recognize that he is a veteran and that Parcells expects full participation. I can even see some football-macho concern for the reason he’s missing camp. But Taylor’s situation is a bit different from Thurman’s in that he is a model Dolphin citizen and has been one of the team’s most popular players. And, Taylor has even indicated that he plans to be back in town prior to the start of the first mandatory camp starting June 6. So again, Bill Parcells and Coach Tony Whoever-the-hell-you-are, if you expect full participation for a voluntary event, then don’t call it voluntary – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If I held a meeting at work that I wanted everyone to attend but I called the meeting “voluntary” and only a few people attended, I really don’t have the right to be ticked off (and if I were to get ticked, I’m really just being a whiny little wuss about the whole thing, aren’t I?).
Again, attendance at these camps is voluntary. If something is voluntary, I don’t understand why a player would be vilified or in Thurman’s case, dismissed from the team because they didn’t partake in the voluntary activity (especially if the excuse is reasonable).