The Baltimore Ravens have been plagued by injuries as much as anybody else has over the course of the past two seasons. During that span, they have dealt with a total of 39 players placed on injured reserve, with that number being as evenly divided between the two seasons as possible without splitting a human being in to a fraction.
Sometimes injuries are simply a statistical anomaly that can come and go in waves, sort of like interceptions. The fact of the matter that there is a lot of luck involved in the equation. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to be proactive about turnovers, or about injuries.
And the Ravens are turning to somebody who has had an active history in helping the Pittsburgh Steelers keep their bodies right, adding Steve Saunders to their staff as the newly created position of Director of Performance & Recovery.
Saunders is the founder of Power Train Sports Institute, and is perhaps best known for his extensive work with James Harrison over the years, but he has also worked with other current and former Steelers, such as Hines Ward and Lawrence Timmons.
Harrison spent most of his professional career working with Saunders, to whom he was originally recommended by former Steelers fullback Dan Kreider, and even then, though he has spent his last several offseasons out west, credited him heavily for his conditioning.
Now Saunders is employed by the Ravens—former Baltimore tight end Todd Heap was once among his clients—with the goal of helping to cut down the number of injuries by working to prevent their occurrences before they arise by targeting individual players’ weaknesses.
As the team’s website states, Saunders “will oversee all sports science, speed training and recovery initiatives”, with a “focus…on injury prevention, recovery and energy system training in an effort to maximize performance”.
While the Ravens’ move to hire Saunders is a significant one for the organization, they are far from the only team to employ somebody in a similar sort of capacity. It is an aspect of the sport that is growing in popularity and significance as we become more and more aware of how we can benefit through sports science. While the Steelers have no direct equivalent position, they have been long served by Garrett Giemont and Marcel Pastoor.
Part of injury prevention is the recovery process, of course, which means not recovering from injury, but recovering day to day from physical exertion to be able to do the same thing tomorrow, and that is one of the main aspects that Saunders is focusing on.
The Ravens’ new Director of Performance & Recovery has had his players running sprints and instigating competition from the get-go of the team’s first phase of the offseason, instilling a high level of intensity early on.
Saunders asks the question, “can they perform in Week 16 like they did in Week 1?”, which gets to the essence of his job. If he can get his players to be as close as possible physically at the end of the year to what they were at the beginning, then he will have been a success.