Can’t make the club from the tub. That’s the old saying, staying healthy critical to earning a roster spot.
You can say the same about being able to make it through practice without sucking wind. That just isn’t as catchy.
In the NFL, the players are bigger, stronger, faster. You know that. But they’re also peak athletes in the best shape of their lives. Better than any rookie. And that’s an overlooked and behind-the-scenes factors of why the transition is so tough for this year’s incoming class.
It’s why Mike Tomlin made it crystal clear this weekend. Show up to training camp in the best shape of your life.
“We have to start the process of being in the best shape of your life,” Tomlin told the rookie minicamp group of 54 in a recap video on Steelers.com.“It’s going to be required. Every great player I’ve ever been around has been highly conditioned. Physical conditioning precedes everything else.”
This is far from the first time Tomlin has made his feelings on conditioning known. Last August, he said basically the same script.
“I routinely say physical conditioning precedes anything else…look at the very best players on our team. They’re the most highly conditioned ones. They practice longer and harder and finish better than anybody else.”
With their lives now completely dedicated to football, the process is a grueling one. 15 practices under the hot Latrobe sun. Four preseason games. We’ve quickly identified players who strained through the end of a particularly humid or grueling practice. Players who have to sit on the sidelines to recover. Missed time is missed reps you can never get back, a chance for someone else to take your spot.
A 4.4 40 doesn’t really matter if you can run it once before feeling like you need an oxygen mask. So that becomes step one for the new faces to the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers’ squad. It is that conditioning that allows each player to showcase the talent they have. Without it, they won’t be long for the league.