OTAs, the off-season training sessions implemented by NFL teams to help develop players and make them better has begun. The sessions consist of organized team activities, practices and team meetings. They’re voluntary. Players are not obligated to attend them or to inform the team about their attendance. The sessions are attended by veterans, draft picks, players out of college and athletes who have been invited as un-drafted free agents.

New York Jets defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson, who’s been the subject of trade rumors at times and suspended twice by the NFL took the opportunity to talk about how happy he was now to be a Jet, and the differences between now and the past.

“Let’s just say, there are 15 reasons why it’s better,” said Richardson, making a not so veiled reference to former Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who wore number 15, being the difference. Marshall signed with the Giants in early March.

When responding to Richardson’s comments, Marshall took the high road by addressing the disappointing season that the Jets team experienced last year, and his excitement, his gratefulness for the fresh start not only for himself but also for Richardson and both teams. 

Athletes such as Richardson and Marshall may one day be tomorrow’s “Dancing with the Stars” contestant. Rashad Jennings, who was released in February by the Giants and looking for a new team, won this season’s television dance contest Tuesday night. It’s been reported that Jennings, a running back who turned 32 in March, drafted in 2009 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, rehearsed more than 350 total hours in his quest to win the Mirrorball Trophy, the most of any contestant on the show thus far.

Jennings and his partner, Emma Slater, beat out former Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross and his partner, Lindsay Arnold. He isn’t the first NFL player to win the Mirrorball.  Former Dallas Cowboy runningback Emmitt Smith first won it in 2006 and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward won it in 2011. They were both retired when they competed. Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp and Jason Taylor have also been contestants. They each have come in second. 

If Jennings is contracted by another NFL team for the upcoming season, he’ll do so under an amended set of rules. Team owners voted this week voted on a number of rule changes at their NFL Spring League Meeting held in Chicago this week.

Players will no longer be penalized for celebrations, as long as the celebration doesn’t mimic the use of a weapon or is prolonged, delaying the game. Regular season overtime has also been shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Rules were also changed regarding roster cuts, and the number of injured reserve players returning to the roster. It went from one to two.