I am sure every head coach in 31 other cities are preaching it. But no one might care about it more than Mike Tomlin. Like clockwork, at the end of every minicamp, Tomlin puts conditoning at the top of his list of requirements for his team when they get into camp.
2017 was no exception.
“They have four to five weeks to get in the very best condition they can get in,” he told reporters in his minicamp recap. “That’s all they can control at this juncture of the journey. There’s some things that lie ahead that’s outside of their control. Things in Latrobe. But what they can control is their overall preparation and physical readiness. We expect them to be in great shape. And we challenge them in that way.”
The messaging is nothing if not consistent. Here’s what Tomlin told reporters following the end of last year’s minicamp.
“What they do from here on is probably going to define them from a conditioning standpoint in 2016. That’s one thing that they can control. They’ve got no control over what we ask them to do and things of that nature but they do have great control over their readiness. So we challenged them in that area and look forward to watching them work to that and the next move for us is Latrobe.”
And Tomlin talking about it last May.
“It’s going to be required. Every great player I’ve ever been around has been highly conditioned. Physical conditioning precedes everything else.”
Tomlin has a simple philosophy. There’s a need to be the better fourth quarter team, meaning they have to be in better shape to outlast the opponent. Former wide receiver Issac Blakeney told me last June Tomlin preached the message daily to the locker room.
“Coach Tomlin’s number one thing is to be the best physically conditioned team every time we step out on the field. He feels like that wins a lot of games.”
Players are sent home with a workout schedule to follow to keep them on track and in sight of their goals. By Latrobe, it’ll be obvious to see who followed it and who relaxed too often. Not just from the conditioning testing but the daily grind of two hour practices under the hot sun. Those in shape will play as well in the last practice as they did in the first. Those who aren’t will struggle. For some, that’ll mean the difference between being cut and remaining on the roster.
The quickest way to Tomlin’s doghouse is to show up looking like Fat Albert. But showing up in great shape is an easy way to catch the head coach’s eye and to earn some praise. That’s what Sean Davis did a year ago.
This is the player’s final rest before camp and the season begins, a non-stop cycle for months, but it isn’t time for them to coast, either.