Philadelphia, PA – Organized team activities are described as "voluntary" in the NFL.
Of course if you are a bubble player or a rookie free agent trying to catch a coach's eye, those "voluntary activities" quickly morph into mandatory ones, sort of like being "on time" for a Tom Coughlin meeting means getting there 10 minutes early.
The NFL's collective bargaining agreement forbids teams from ordering players to attend OTAs but attendance sure is impressive around the league, and when players don't show, it's a story in the local media.
A few Philadelphia Eagles have had high-profile absences during their OTAs and veteran All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and free agent cornerback Cary Williams were both a little ornery when asked about their recent absences at the team's mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
"It's a personal issue," the massive Peters, who missed all of last season after tearing his Achilles twice, said as he stared down a reporter. "I'm not talking about that. I'm healthy and I'm here to practice."
Williams, who signed a three-year, $17 million contract with the Eagles this offseason after winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, took a different tact when explaining his spotty attendance record, one which included "excused" absences for getting married, dental work, real estate (he's building a new house) and a recital for his daughter.
"It's a transition," Williams explained when talking about joining a new team. "There is life outside of football and I am trying to balance work and my free time. I'm sorry I wasn't here during OTAs. You want me to do that during the season? We don't have any days of during the season, except for Tuesday."
Williams seemed particularly upset about some media members questioning whether attending his 3-year-old daughter's recital was a prudent decision.
"If I was a guy that had three kids with three different women and I was a womanizer, you'd be reporting that," Williams said. "Now I'm a guy that wants to go see his girl's recital and I'm a bad guy. Like, come on, man.
"I grew up as a kid who didn't have two parents in a household. I definitely take pride in being a father and a husband. I take pride in being there for my daughter because I didn't have that when I was younger."
The fans in Philly, one of football's most ravenous media markets, don't necessarily see their warriors on Sunday as ordinary people with everyday problems though.
"It's just funny. I mean, fans, I love y'all, but jeez, give me a break," Williams said.
At the end of the day, though, it's not about how the media or fans feel about Williams, it's about Chip Kelly and whether Philadelphia's new coach thinks his high-priced cornerback is doing everything he needs to do in order to be a part of a revamped secondary which could include four new starters.
"You are getting the chance to see (Williams) and (CB Bradley Fletcher) and those guys compete against (wide receiver DeSean Jackson) and (WR Jeremy Maclin)," Kelly said. "We haven't been able to do that. We knew the rules going in, so instead of complaining about it, what can we get accomplished? A lot of scheme stuff, lot of assignment things, learning how to tempo, learning how to practice."
"I don't want to sound like it's disrespect. I love my job," Williams countered. "I'm sorry people make such a big deal about something that's so small."
On one hand you can see Williams' point. A veteran, even one who is with a new team, will have plenty of time to get things down in training camp. Conversely, it's also about leadership and setting an example to the younger players in an organization.
It's a tight rope every NFL veteran walks and one Williams has had trouble navigating so far.
"I haven't gotten in trouble in years," he stated. "I've learned my lessons. I've been through so much scrutiny in previous years and things like that. If I was doing something negative, then report it. I'm not doing anything negative. I'm just trying to be a great dad, I'm just trying to be a great family man. I'm just trying to live my life outside of football. Life happens."
And so do minicamps -- mandatory ones.
This week Williams was forced to turn down an invitation to attend the Ravens' scheduled White House visit on Wednesday -- the second day of Philadelphia's mandatory session.
"It just so happens (minicamp) fell on a day that the Ravens are going to see the President," a disappointed Williams explained. "It's not necessarily a big deal, but I wish I was there. I just have to deal with what I have to deal with."