After the mandatory minicamps ended this week, the official NFL holiday season for players, coaches and executives began. After going through an intensive offseason schedule that featured OTAs (Organized Team Activities), minicamp practices, and strength and conditioning sessions, players have about six weeks to rest, relax, and recharge for the NFL marathon that could run until mid-February, for those lucky enough to be members of a title contender.
For coaches, scouts and executives, the final horn at mandatory minicamp ends an 11-month routine that included a full NFL regular season and a messy offseason that tested their ability to plan, evaluate and develop various players. staff members inside the building. From updating the roster through free agency and the NFL Draft to conducting self-studies on tactics, schemes and personnel trends, the four weeks from mid-June to mid-July provide football folks with a chance to recapture the breath after a dizzying journey.
As a former player and scout, I remember how much I appreciated the sabbatical between the end of the offseason and training camp. The opportunity to sneak away on a family vacation out of the country or visit family and friends in the US is a top priority before spending the months of August through January isolated from the outside world as you focus on becoming a key contributor to a champion team.
Given the time to communicate with some players and executives about how they will spend their month away from the team, here are some thoughts.
It’s time for some “R & R”
The NFL offseason grind affects players despite the importance of the preparation process. Players typically take a few weeks off after the Super Bowl before pushing themselves in the weight room and on the field to improve their speed, strength, conditioning and skill. Since most players choose to exercise five to six days a week, the weeks after minicamp are an ideal time to cut back on workouts while taking a vacation to clear your head.
Looking at the calendar, July 4th is the deadline for the holidays. Vacations last more than three weeks from the start of training camp, giving players plenty of time to intensify their workouts to prepare for conditioning tests and the grueling nature of training camp. Although the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has altered the two-a-day format of my playing days, the cumulative effect of physical blows and monotonous repetitions of practice can leave players mentally and physically exhausted.
With that in mind, players should find a quiet place to relax for a few days before heading back to the rat race. I’ve always loved visiting the Caribbean or Mexico to soak up the sun in a relaxed setting with a good book in hand, with resorts offering a variety of spa services, including massages and yoga classes, to ease the stress of the next season.
Today’s gamers spend more time traveling abroad to the Greek islands and various European destinations. Whether cruising the French Riviera or visiting the sights of Italy, the players are taking advantage of their final sabbatical before training camp begins at the end of July.
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Get ready for the marathon
After taking time out of the humdrum grind of the NFL calendar, players and executives ramp up the preparation process in early July. Players will spend a few weeks working with their coaches to refine their skills and improve their conditioning. Although the work done throughout the offseason program under the watchful eye of your team’s strength and conditioning staff should prepare players for the grind, additional work with coaches should help players get to training ground in the best conditions.
For coaches, the month off allows staff to do a self-exploration of the work done during the offseason program. Coaches will have an opportunity to review and discuss some of the schematic experiments shown at minicamp practices and workouts. Whether it’s a new formation, a passing concept or a blitz adjustment, spring/summer practices are the perfect time to put things on tape to see if the blackboard experiments work on turf too.
With just a few weeks to study the film and review post-practice notes, summer vacation allows coaches to refine their playbooks and call sheets as they prepare for the training camp setup.
Scouts and executives will use the next few weeks to compile emergency boards with a list of available players before training camp. Some prospects are veterans patiently waiting for a perfect situation to open up, while others are low-level free agents who could fill a spot at the bottom of the 85-man training camp roster. With so many names to manage and organize, the next few weeks will give scouts a chance to put the finishing touches on their “just in case” lists.
end the message
While everyone is busy working on their preparation plans, the head coach reads books and listens to podcasts to find some motivational nuggets that will inspire the team through the dark days of camp. Coaches will consult books by business leaders and sports figures to find the right quote or story to put the team in the right frame of mind on the training field.
In addition to writing notes and highlighting pages from their favorite reads, Coaches’ iPhones are packed with podcasts from innovative and motivational people from around the world. Given the importance of messaging and setting the vision, the coaches are working around the clock to find the perfect message to set the tone for the season.
Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He appears regularly on “Speak For Yourself” and also discusses the game for the NFL Network and co-hosts the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.
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