It's a long and tough road to get to the NFL for most players, but it might be an even more difficult task to get yourself mentally and physically "Ready To Play" in the NFL week in and week out. As we work our way towards the start of the NFL season, we're speaking with a different NFL player each week and getting a first-hand account from them on how they get themselves ready for all of the rigors that come with competing at the NFL level. Here's Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Caraun Reid, discussing how he gets "Ready To Play."
The thing I would like people to understand is that football is a year round job. Sure, there's vacation, but even when I'm on vacation I'm cognizant of the fact that I have a job that expects me to be in shape when I show up for camp. One of my good friends on the team, CJ Mosely, gave me the good advice of always staying at your report weight. So, no matter what I'm doing, whether I'm on vacation or not, just always be at your report weight. That way you don't have to worry about losing all this weight or gaining it back.
Even though we might be off our feet, there's still the mental side of preparedness that we need to worry about too. I don't just sit at home and do nothing as much as my body may want to. I'm always doing something, even if it's just getting mental reps, because I know I could be wasting days while other guys are out there getting better.
It's continuous competition, year-round. You know there's always guys coming from college and they might be faster than you or something like that. There's always someone trying to take your job so it's one of those things where you're always aware even in the off season that you're continuously competing, even while you're on 'vacation'.
Coming from a small school (Princeton), I didn't have many guys that were in the league that could advise me on what the training needed to be to get to the next level. I started training with a guy by the name of Jay Caldwell right before the Senior Bowl, prior to the NFL Draft. The big thing he talked to me about is the amount of time that the guys he works with in the league spend off the field dealing with little things. On the flip side, he talked to me about how much time and money they spend on the field to make sure they're ready. He was the first one that spoke to me about the different level of preparedness needed to be successful in the NFL.
My training for the upcoming season begins in March, out in Portland, Oregon at the Nike campus with my former teammate Ndamukong Suh. We go through different phases with our trainer so the training takes on a bit of a different look each day. That said, our training mainly focuses on functional movement, functional lifting, being in control and having great body balance which is extremely important for a defensive lineman.
We do various different things in our training including rehabilitation and physical therapy to help our bodies recover, but the biggest thing we do is our morning workout. It's an early morning lift where we go through functional movements and it's all about body control. We're not about hammering down crazy back squats, it's more about being in control of your body.
Suh has been big for me in learning and developing the training regimen that I need to succeed at this level. After my rookie year, he took me out to Oregon with him just to see the way that he works out in the off season. To see the process of the team that he has around him: the chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, and trainer. He showed me "this is what I do to get ready" and when you have that kind of opportunity, you don't say no.
When it comes to the physical aspect of getting ready for the season, the conditioning is the biggest thing. Just being in the best shape possible because in order to be a three down athlete or play more snaps in a game, you have to have great conditioning. But, in order to be able to move, hip mobility is key. The functional movement of your lower body and being able to change directions under control helps you to excel as a defensive lineman and win the battle against the offense. Not only that, but having that mobility helps to prevent injuries as well.
My knowledge of what I need to do to be ready for the season is the biggest area of change in my training and off season routine. Even just understanding my body, I think I understand it at a much higher level than I did as a rookie. As a rookie I just knew you have to run, you have to be in shape for camp, you have to do all this. But, now I know it's more about working smarter and working on the things you need to correct in your technique rather than just tiring yourself out. A lot of the time when you do that, you end up negating the good that you could be doing.
My diet is pretty strict when it comes to the season, but whenever the season ends I do give myself a "cheat" two months. That's when I just go home, eat all the Jamaican food I want and don't really care about what I'm eating. But, once that training begins in March it's right back to being serious about what I eat. That's because I know I need to get my body fat down and start getting into movement shape.
In terms of the mental side of preparing, at the end of the season I get all of my plays on tape from the previous year. That way I get to see all the good, the bad, and the ugly. After I watch through everything I sit down and go through it with a fine tooth comb. I'm watching film of myself constantly trying to see what was the low-hanging fruit, where were the missed opportunities? Once I find those I know that I can try to capitalize on that moving forward. Then I have a list of things that I need to improve on so that when we get to the spring and back to training for the upcoming year, it's easier to transition into working on those things on the field. I still define myself as being young in the league so there's still so much that I need to see and know so that I can develop and mature as a player.
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