In today’s football, there seems to be a few recent on-field trends that have been becoming more and more commonplace. Its obvious that due to a string of rule changes in recent years that both favor offensive production, as well as a concerted effort made to eliminate violent injuries on both sides of the ball, penalties are called at a much higher rate than ever before. However, outside of the alterations made to the rulebook, there are other substantial changes to the football landscape that are leaving players with the following choice: adapt or fall behind.
As alluded to earlier, at no point in the history of the NFL has the league made such a blatant and concerted effort to diminish the substantial head injuries players face throughout the season. But the physical nature of the sport has always (and will always) foster an environment where a number of violent injuries occur, both contact and non-contact alike. Last weekend, a number of high profile athletes suffered devastating, season-ending injuries which added to a year when we’ve seen a sharp increase in the significant injuries being suffered by NFL players at all positions. There is a lot of speculation on the reasoning; bigger and faster athletes, more competition for on-field positions, volume of games each season, and some have even speculated that this trend is the accumulate defect of playing and practicing with heightened intensity at all levels of the game. Regardless of the reason, as athletes, the absolute primary concern we have is our ability to keep our bodies healthy. With each athlete’s approach to body maintenance playing an integral role in their success, it begs the question: are todays athletes focusing too much on sport-specificity and failing to incorporate enough basic movement skills and off-season conditioning to prepare them for the strain of being on the field every quarter of every game.
With the increasing prevalence of the spread and no-huddle offenses, another huge trend in the NFL right now is high-tempo play. Whether its Chip Kelly and the Eagles or Art Briles at Baylor, or the high school team leading its division, more and more teams are going to faster tempo offenses. Faster tempo means less recovery between plays and even less recovery between series, both offensively and defensively. The teams who are able to maintain the higher level of play towards the end of the game usually have the upper hand when the clock runs out. Athletes that are cognizant of the need to make an effort to combine a more endurance building with their strength and speed training are those that are going to succeed in this new, higher tempo environment.
Thus far, the 2015 season has been full of big plays that are making huge impacts on collegiate rankings and the landscape of the NFL hierarchy. So many games are coming down to a single play in the waning moments of a contest that break the game wide open and immediately change the face of that contest. Ultimately, there are many factors that contribute to big plays at the end of a game. But often times, it’s the team or player able to overcome fatigue, to continue to play at a high level, and being sharp enough to find a way to make a play when the team needs it most. It could be sheer speed. Sometimes that looks like Julio Jones breaking tackles en route to a 80 yard touchdown reception or Aaron Rodgers escaping the pocket to throw a 40 yard post to Randall Cobb who has created enough separation with his first step off the line. But strength and balance could also be the difference maker as the clock winds down. The best running backs are consistently able to break tackles and maintain balance at the second level, while the best mobile quarterbacks exhibit the core strength and stability to maintain their composure and simultaneously get enough behind the ball to get a pass to the corner of the endzone. Whether it’s the fourth quarter or the first, you need to be ready to make the big play. Ask yourself, is my training approach making me a well-rounded athlete? Do I have a quick enough first step to break press coverage? Do I have the right combination of speed and strength to shed blockers, keep contain, close a gap or get to a sweep on the outside to stop a pressing offense on 3rd down? Make sure your training reflects your desire to be ready to make every play as well as the big play with the opportunity arises.
Here at Athletic Republic, we focus on the basics of movement skills, speed, power, balance, strength, and stamina. These key factors will not only help you play at a high level late in the game or put you in a position to make the game changing play, but will also help prevent injuries through the long grind of the pre-season, regular season and post football season.