The truth of the matter is that when it comes to getting better in the NFL, a lot of the work that goes into that process is the work that you put in yourself, on your own. This has been increasingly true since the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has somewhat restricted player access to coaches and facilities at certain parts of the offseason and limited reps.
The scaling back of practices and things like that have also seen the substantial rise in players hiring their own trainers to work with in the offseason, not just to maintain or improve their conditioning, but to literally be coached and instructed at their position. This used to be limited primarily to veterans with some cash, but now even the young players, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mason Rudolph, do it.
As he enters his second season as a third-round draft pick in 2018, Rudolph is eying the backup quarterback job behind Ben Roethlisberger. He is in direct competition with Joshua Dobbs, who won the backup job from Landry Jones a year ago. And he hasn’t spent the past several months idle.
“You’ve got to do everything”, he told reporters after a recent practice this past week when asked what it is that he worked on. “That’s the funny thing, is that I had all this time. You have like four months off, and you’ve got to be able to manage it well and spend a little bit of time in the playbook and the rulebook even”.
In terms of specific things, he listed “obviously throwing, working on little things [like] footwork, timing, trying to get around other guys”. He previously talked about his intention to work with some players on his own, so it seems as though he made good on that.
“It was fun”, he said of his offseason work. “I couldn’t put one thing on it, but it was a little bit of everything. Studying in the book, staying in touch with the coaching staff and asking questions every once in a while. Not being teacher’s pet, but, you know, legitimate questions”.
Rudolph’s work has also been rewarded, as he has gotten more opportunities to work with the first-team offseason so far this spring, which should certainly continue into training camp. He will probably even get some work with the first-team personnel in the preseason, since their skill position players are young and the offensive line almost always plays extra snaps.
He has three days left before he has another break off ahead of training camp, but he didn’t mention what his plans were for that down time. I think it’s probably safe to guess, though, that it will include a lot of work in the playbook and some throwing as well.