Late NFL Draft limits prep time for rookies

Late NFL Draft limits prep time for rookies
May 8, 2014, 3:30 pm
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FOXBORO -- When Jamie Collins was drafted by the Patriots in late April of last year, he had a lot to learn.

He was an athletic marvel coming out of the University of Southern Mississippi who had played everywhere in college from defensive end to safety. Talented and versatile as he was, the second-round pick knew his plate would be full during the first few months of his NFL education.

Rookie minicamp provided him a new-student orientation of sorts.

"It's really important," Collins said of the two-day period that took place a week after the draft. "You need it. You're a rookie. You need to get in, get a tight grasp on the things that go on around here. Just get used to everything."

As Collins alluded, rookie minicamp was much about getting accustomed to new surroundings as it was about getting a first crack at the team's playbook.

This year's crop of rookies may not be afforded that same kind of buffer before training camp. The NFL Draft is later than ever this year -- May 8-10 -- robbing incoming rookies of some valuable preparation time.

"Some guys are different," Collins said. "Some guys maybe don't need as much time, some guys do. You never know."

Rookie minicamp took place on May 3 and 4 last year. Organized team activities began about two weeks after that on May 20 and training camp kicked off on July 26.

This year? The schedule for New England's incoming rookies still isn't quite set, but they may not be in town until Monday, May 12. Since teams are allowed to begin training camp 15 days before their first preseason game -- the Patriots kick off their exhibition slate at Washington on Aug. 7 -- camp could start up as early as July 23 for the Patriots.

That means the new NFL offseason schedule could mean nearly a two-week loss of prep time for Patriots rookies.

How might it affect their development? That remains to be seen, but recent history shows that those first few weeks of work can be significant for incoming players.

Rookie wideout Taylor Price missed valuable time when he arrived to Foxboro late in 2009 in order to attend Ohio University's graduation. Just last year, Josh Boyce missed important reps early in the offseason as he recovered from a foot injury.

With lost time built into this year's NFL offseason schedule, it appears as though the already-challenging task of adapting to the NFL game will have to happen even more quickly for the new class of rookies.