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 Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Josh Dobbs, discussing how he gets "Ready To Play."
The main difference so far between the training regimen for the NFL and the one I followed in college has just been time. In college you go to class all day, then you go to football. In the NFL of course you just wake up and it's all football all the time. Once you're finished with the workouts, you're just resting and preparing your body for the next day.
Once OTAs and mini-camps ended, that's where I think the biggest difference can be seen between the college and the NFL levels. In college, you have a typical regimen, typical routine. Each day you go to the complex and you have your workouts and they're all team-run and team organized. In the NFL, once you finished OTAs and mini-camps, you're off until camp starts. So it's on you to get yourself ready to go and prepare and condition for camp and the season.
That's the first thing I needed to figure out this spring and summer once mini-camp was over, what regimen was I going to do throughout this offseason. So, the first week, I had a tough training week and then it was July 4th so I took a vacation with the family before getting right back into it. I planned my schedule to do basically a week of on the field and weight training workouts followed by a week of more quarterback specific drills. That was my first goal after I got drafted; to create a routine and regimen that would allow me to be ready to go once camp started.
The biggest thing I try to do with my regimen is game simulation. Throughout my training on the field, I try to put myself in game-like situations. So, I go through all of the routine throws that you have to make as part of mastering the playbook before going into making plays in order to keep the chains moving. It helps me work on my conditioning by doing everything at game speed and, that way, once you get to the game, you've already trained under those atmospheres and situations.
Speaking of the conditioning aspect, I tried to incorporate that into all of my training this offseason. When I'm doing weight training, I go up-tempo, with shorter rest periods in between sets and always moving around to get cardio involved as much as possible. On top of that, each day I go for a run in the mornings as a warmup and then, during the field sessions, I go high-tempo again, trying to run and stay moving from drill-to-drill. The reason I did that is because I feel that, especially as a quarterback, you have to be able to communicate, talk, process information whether you're completely rested or just ran 50 yards and have to go to the next play. So, by working my conditioning through every workout, I'm prepared to be able to still communicate effectively at a high level in those situations.
In addition to the physical training, there's also a mental aspect to getting ready to play when it comes to learning the playbook. The best way that I've found for doing that is to break the playbook down into segments and then get on the white board and talk through it with someone. The person can be anyone, it doesn't necessarily have to be someone who is an expert in football because I want to be able to break down the play to them so that they understand it as well.
The biggest thing I learned throughout college is, that you truly figure out how well you know the playbook by how effectively you can teach it to someone else. In college, you always have new freshman coming in and teaching them is how I got a great grasp of the playbook. I applied that same method to the playbook at the NFL level.
The biggest talking point that veterans have had for me so far is the your rookie year in the NFL is always the longest year, so you need to be smart and pace yourself. You don't have to overdo it this summer. Of course you want to come back and be ready to go, but don't be ready to go to the extent of burning yourself out.
Since joining the NFL ranks, my diet has completely changed. In college, you're used to just eating anything that someone puts in front of you. In the NFL that changes and you first see it in the pre-draft training when you're around various different nutritionists and they open your eyes to how important what you put in your body is. At the college level I felt like I did a good job with my recovery, but I've definitely attempted to take it to the next level now. I've tried to go to a more clean, healthy, gluten-free diet, limiting breads and things that aren't necessarily healthy for you. I've started eating more fruit, drinking more water each day, just little things like that. Even if you go out and want to have a burger let's say. Instead of getting it on white bread and all lathered up in sauces or ketchup, you get a lettuce wrap with it.
On game days, I have to have upbeat, high-energy music to listen to as I'm getting ready. It doesn't matter if its hip-hop, pop, or whatever, it just has to be high energy. If you look at my game day playlist, it's a mash-up of everything. There's definitely a sweet spot I like to find with music though. I don't want it to be too high intensity because I don't want to get over-hyped.
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