Practice Makes Perfect

The value of practice has been burned into my brain by countless coaches, my parents, my teammates, my friends, my friends’ parents, my parents’ friends, my mailman, my neighbors, random people on the street, etc., so forgive me if I sound brainwashed at any point during this writing.

 

Earlier this year, the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, took some heat from the media for saying, “Practice is a lot harder than the games.” If this statement is taken out of context, and left as a stand-alone quote, then yes, it is inappropriate, and probably a little bit offensive to opposing defenses. However, I would think that his coaches were probably happy to learn that he felt that way.

Practices are designed to be difficult for players both mentally and physically, so they feel prepared on game day. Maybe what Griffin should have said is:

“Because our coaches challenge us daily with practices intended to:

            -Make us better understand the offensive scheme that we have installed for this week…

            -as well as the defensive looks of the current opponent versus those schemes                  (and how we can adjust our schemes for the best possible outcome)…

            -I felt well prepared for game time.

            -Oh yeah, and I didn’t feel winded at the end of the game.”

Had he said the latter rather than the former, he would have been guilty of 2 things: an extremely long run-on sentence, and better explaining what he meant by his statement.

Practices aren’t easy in the NFL. Usual practices include chunks of time divided up for different drills. These chunks of time are called periods. Much like high school now that I think of it. Some of these drills that are done regularly are:

 

Individual: The Tight End’s Coach (Alfredo Roberts in my case) will choose drills that are specific to their job in a game. Some days we focus on blocking, other days passing, other days ball security (fumble prevention).

 

7 on 7: This is basically the offensive guys who touch the ball vs. the linebackers and defensive backs (not the linemen). During this time, the offensive and defensive lineman will work together to improve their pass blocking and pass rush.

 

Special Teams: These periods are dedicated to making sure our punt, kickoff, field goal, punt block/return, kickoff return, and field goal block teams are in sync ready to go on Sunday.

 

Team: Some of the most important work is done during these periods. Usually a “scout team” will mimic the defensive/offensive looks seen on film from that week’s opponent. It’s always interesting to see who will pretend to be some of the star players from the upcoming opponent. (I’m not sure who decides that, but would be interested to find out if it is the coaching staff, the scouts, or the equipment staff.) This time is where the offensive or defensive unit will try to work together to execute the plays that the coaching staff has installed for the opponent of the week. Usually a team period is given a specific focus such as:

 

-Team Run- Focus on blocking schemes and running the ball.

-Blitz- Focus on picking up defensive blitzes.

-Third Down- Focus on converting 3rd downs into 1st downs.

-Red Zone- Focus on SCORING TOUCHDOWNS!

 

This week we play Kansas City OUTDOORS! Sorry, I guess it may come as a shock to some that I was spoiled by Northern California weather for the past few years. In preparing for the Chiefs, we will be practicing outside (I’ll spare you the “neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow” line). Thankfully, we do have an indoor practice facility for weeks that our opponents have an indoor turf field.

Playing in the cold makes football more difficult:

-The ground is frozen and hard.

-Your hands are frozen and don’t have the sensation they usually do, making throwing and catching much more difficult.

-The ball is rock hard.

-Putting on a helmet that feels frozen like an ice cube isn’t the greatest.

-Wearing sleeves makes the ball more difficult to secure. So the skinny guys probably shouldn’t be wearing sleeves… (and the large ones think it’s a sign of toughness not to wear them. Ha!)

 

The good thing about playing in the cold?

-If you’re playing in wintertime that could mean YOU’RE IN THE PLAYOFFS!

 

If we win this week or next week, we guarantee a playoff birth. I don’t mind being a little chilly for an opportunity to make it to “the tournament”! Let’s Go Colts!

 

 

 

 

Inside the Locker Room: Reindeer Games

Entering the NFL, if I gained one yard for every person that told me “it’s a business”, I might be more deserving than our quarterback to be in the MVP discussion (Doubtful though, since I can’t pass to myself). Like most places of work, you bond more easily with some coworkers than others. Locker rooms in the NFL aren’t much different.

Office Comparison

1. Yes, there is water cooler talk… although we are sitting in it usually (Side note: I hate ice tubs).

2. Yes, we discuss player trades… No, it doesn’t involve your fantasy team.

3. We use tape, pads, and staplers differently than most offices. 

As you can probably imagine, NFL locker rooms are interesting and dynamic ecosystems. Different positions, backgrounds, upbringings, ethnicities, educations, beliefs, and religions all make for anything but a homogeneous group. Because these men spend so much time together, friendships naturally occur. Sometimes however, locker rooms can become divided into “cliques”. Offensive linemen don’t get to know defensive backs. Defensive backs don’t get to know specialists. Specialists don’t get to know defensive linemen… So how do teams avoid this?

This isn’t grade school, where everyone has to play nice. Many of these men have children of their own (wow, I feel old just knowing that I work with them!), and have responsibilities that are more important than football. Part of building a successful team is each person gaining enough of the others’ trust to make them believe you’ll do your job, and in return, caring enough about them to feel obligated to do your own. Bottom Line: You can’t build trust if you don’t break up the cliques and get guys talking to each other.

How do the Colts do this? Cornhole is one way. Oh you don’t live in the Midwest or go to block parties regularly, and don’t know what Cornhole is? Ok, then I’ll explain. “Cornhole” or “bags” as I knew it growing up in the suburbs of Chicago is throwing game where a player attempts to throw a bean bag into a hole across from them (Think horseshoes except with beanbags instead of the shoes and wooden boards with holes in them instead of the sand pit and stake).

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Inside of our locker room lives a nice set of these bags and boards thanks to veteran defensive lineman Corey Redding. He correctly assessed the game as a teambuilding opportunity. Now challenges are made regularly, and while some small amounts of money are won and lost during most games of Cornhole, a lot of team bonding between players that may not otherwise have become friends takes place.

Before you start to suggest that guys aren’t taking their work seriously, and are playing games instead, I should point out that any time spent playing Cornhole is done in between meetings or other things on our regular daily schedule. This is time that other guys use to get taped, stretch, check their twitter (cough-McAfee-cough), mentally prepare for practice or walk through, eat lunch, etc. Basically, it’s free time in between things that is to be used how the player sees fit.

 

Indianapolis Colts Cornhole Power Rankings

1. Pat McAfee

-The (self-proclaimed) undisputed champ of the players. Has a lot more free time than most of the competition to practice. Hint: Punter’s playbook=punt the ball high and far.

2. Corey Redding

-Is rumored to have an official American Cornhole Association membership card. It’s a real thing. Google it.

3. A.Q. Shipley

-A high quality athlete in an… offensive lineman’s body. Supposedly averaged more points per game than Joe Reitz in high school (Joe played college basketball. I’ll try to put together a post on his interesting story in the future).

4. Anthony Castonzo

-Uses the traction from his team-high size 18 shoes to gain a leg up on opponents.

5. Mike McGlynn

-A self-described “carnie”. According to sources, is falling in rankings recently.

6. Samson Satele

-The wildcard of the bunch. When he gets on a hot streak, he can be tough to stop.

53. Coby Fleener

-I am terrible at the game, but do enjoy spectating, and making “corny” jokes (oh man…).

 

Odds and Ends

-Before the game last Sunday, we walked past the Lions, heading to our locker room, and one of their players said, “Hey, nice blog!” As a black belt in sarcasm, I felt like it was an attempt at a put down. However… he knows I have a blog, so whether he likes it or not, I’m taking it as a compliment.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Edition: How Many Cooks in the Kitchen?!

It’s Thanksgiving! In between nibbling on your turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and… I think you get the idea. Anyway, read on for an idea of what stuff the Indianapolis Colts eat to keep their bodies in great shape. WARNING: Some shapes may be more desireable than others (the TV cameras only add ten pounds).

Cooking for any holiday can be a hassle. With family members and friends coming into town, it must be stressful to cook for such a large amount of people. Making a shopping list, going to the grocery store, trying to multiply recipes designed for three people so that they can feed 25, when to start cooking each part of the meal, etc.

HOLIDAY MATH QUIZ

25 people invited/ 3 people usually=8.33

8.33 x 2/3cups of anything= ’tis the season for calculators and internet searches

Some people enjoy cooking. I’m not one of them. Microwaving things is my specialty. Occasionally I can even re-heat leftovers or “make” a frozen pizza. All this is to say that if I didn’t have food made for me at the Colts facility, I’d be in trouble.

COOKING A FEAST…DAILY

At Stanford, we had mandatory breakfast. Coaches would take attendance, and if we missed a few times in a quarter, the next miss would trigger a punishment. I don’t know how anyone ever missed these breakfasts though, because I would go to sleep at night excited for breakfast the next day. There was everything you could possibly think of for a healthy (or unhealthy) and tasty breakfast: made-to-order egg omellettes and scrambles, fresh berries and other fruits for smoothies, multiple cereal options, waffle makers, or even an occasional steak after a big win.

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^Each day, there are different foods in the buffet line at the Colts practice facility.

I thought that I would miss Stanford’s weather and my teammates when I left, but I knew that I was going to miss that breakfast. Fortunately, I got drafted to Indianapolis, where we have AWESOME food service. Many people don’t realize that, because we are at the practice facility from 7am (or earlier) until about 6pm each day, two meals a day are provided for us. Usually breakfast and lunch are served.

Remember how much we (I’m just going to assume that you’re not a big fan of cooking for the sake of the argument) don’t like cooking for 25 people a couple times a year (if you have people over and cook for them on holidays other than Thanksgiving and >INSERT WINTER HOLIDAY YOU CELEBRATE<, I’m impressed)? How about cooking for 61 football players (not including injured reserve players), as well as for a number of trainers, coaches, and front office employees, twice a day? According to a 2011 New York Times article entitled “NFL Linemen Tip the Scales”, the average NFL player is 252 pounds.

FOOTBALL MATH QUIZ

61 players x 252 lbs= at least 15,372 lbs of man going through the buffet line each day

Needless to say, there is quite a large amount of food required to feed a herd of NFL lineman. It would be easy to just make dry, cruddy, scrambled eggs for breakfast and boiled pasta for lunch, but we have an awesome cooking staff that give us a large variety at every meal.

COLTS BREAKFAST

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^Each morning I have a bowl of berries (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) covered in oatmeal with ground flaxseed mixed into it. I also have an egg white scramble with turkey and all the veggie options.

Other options that are often served:

-fruit assortment, pancakes, waffles, premade eggs/eggwhites, grits, french toast, egg and cheese English muffins, cinnamon rolls.

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^Some of the fruit options from the food line.

COLTS LUNCH

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 ^Hydration is key for any athlete. I’d say we have a few options to choose from…

Lunch is more varied for me.

My staples:

-Leafy Greens/Veggies: I try to eat a salad before or with each meal, so I include a spinach salad (with a small amount of dressing… italian or some type of vinagrette are my go-to’s).

-Fruit: Again I get some berries. I’m a big fan for both taste and anti-oxidant content.

-Carbohydrates: Whole wheat pasta with a marinara or meat sauce (if I’m feeling adventurous). Sometimes a stir fry with pasta or rice.

-Meat: this varies with the option of the day. Usually fish or poultry.

Other options that are often served:

-potatoes, steamed veggies, etc.

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^My typical lunch tray.

BEHIND IT ALL

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^Above you can see Chef Dewitt working to make three breakfast scrambles at once. I can’t make my own with one pan in front of me.

The collossal task of feeding the Indianapolis Colts falls on the shoulders of Chef Dewitt who “sleeps in” until 3:15am! He says it would be tough if he and the people that he works with didn’t love their jobs. Ever smiling, Chef Dewitt is always willing to help the players regardless of how outlandish some of their requests might be. From prepared meals in to-go boxes for coaches who need to eat and watch film simultaneously to cooking individual meals for guys who prefer to bring in their own food (weird/smelly fish, funky veggies, and more), it would be hard to argue that we don’t have the best food staff in the NFL (keep in mind, I’ve only played for one team for less than a year… but hey, it is darn good).

DESSERT?!

Just like a good meal, I thought I would close the post with a report on the dessert selection. As it should be, the majority of focus is placed on creating healthy meals for the players to best fuel their bodies with, however, there are a few options that help the lineman maintain their figures. 

-Ice cream freezer filled with a bunch of chilled treats such as popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, and pints of ice cream.

-Served with each meal is a dessert option ranging from chocolate chip cookies to cakes.

HUNGRY?

So am I. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a salad in the hopes that you’ll start there before diving into the ice cream cooler.

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