Veterans Robert Gallery and Nnamdi Asomugha chat as they walk off the field after a recent training camp practice in Napa, Calif. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Oakland Raiders receive a well-earned break from training camp practices today as they travel to Dallas for their preseason game against the Cowboys. After two solid weeks of Training Camp 2010 (21 practices and countless meetings), the players fight the fatigue that sets in with the long hours and constant physical and mental stress. "The days are super long," said QB Bruce Gradkowski. "We start practice at 8:15 a.m., you're up at 7:00 to eat, then you've got to get loose and then we go until 10-10:30, bed check is at 11 so it's really a nonstop day." In order to successfully complete training camp's grueling schedule, each player must learn how to cope and stay fresh for both the on-field workouts and the off-field meetings and study.
"No matter how much you work out in the offseason you're always going to be sore come training camp," explained CB Nnamdi Asomugha. "I think the thing to do is get off your feet as much as possible and try to relax. If you're not practicing, there's no reason you should be standing up or running around, walking around different places. You have to sit down and rest up and try to reenergize for the next practice." In addition to resting his body, Asomugha has learned how to properly take care of his body in the training room to stay healthy and maintain high energy over many years of playing football.
For Gradkowski taking care of the body is crucial. To maintain his strength and fight fatigue, he uses the "ice tub, maybe getting in the hot tub to warm up before practice and doing the right things to prepare your body and take care of your body. Even if you're not that sore you have to do those things just to prevent [injury and soreness]." The players work with the Raiders athletic trainers to make sure that they are properly taking care of themselves.
TE Zach Miller takes advantage of the facilities and staff to manage and control the onset of fatigue halfway through training camp. "I ice tub and do a lot of extra work to take care of things that bother me, get constant treatment, and I try to be proactive before I end up missing a practice," said Miller.
While the players must combat the physical weariness, they must also work through mental exhaustion involved with long days that include studying film and their playbooks, and frequent meetings. "It's tough," said Miller. "You find something to keep you going in the meetings, to keep you up. I'll chew sunflower seeds, gum, anything to stay awake during meetings because it gets hard." For Gradkowski, fighting mental fatigue requires using the breaks between practice and meetings to his advantage. "You really have to take it as it comes and when you get that down time you have to try to relax and get your mind off things so you can be refreshed."
The mental component of training camp is not as difficult for Asomugha. "The mental part of the game I think I just balance it well so I never get really tired of it," explained Asomugha. "I know when too much is too much. As far as the mental stuff during training camp, it's the most important. I don't really get fatigued with it."
In addition to all of the required elements of training camp, players must also find time to fit in the extra film and playbook study. Gradkowski, even after five years in the league, continues to fit study into his daily routine. "You have to try to find time to squeeze that in. I think in the afternoon when you have that little break, you have to get in your playbook whether its 20 minutes or an hour, however long you need, that's what you need to do," Gradkowski explained. "Also, at night, when meetings are done, before you go to bed, you need to look that stuff over again. I still do that even though I know the offense I do it just as much as I did as a rookie because I have to stay on top of those things."
Miller also fits study into his long day despite the exhaustion. "It's just about having that extra desire to go in there," said Miller. "You might not want to watch that extra film, you might not want to see something you didn't get to watch as a team. You just have to make the time. Maybe you don't get a little nap or something like that you go in and watch a little film instead. You just have to have that desire to get better."
With two weeks of Training Camp 2010 in the books, the team is excited to get on the road and change their routine. Having a travel day provides the team with a break from the rigors of camp as they get set for their first preseason game against Dallas tomorrow evening. The excitement is high and the team is ready to get on the road and play in a real football game.