As you get older, you get wiser. The same applies to anyone fortunate enough to last several seasons in the NFL. Asked to compare where he was as a rookie to where he is now as a 28-year-old with five Pro Bowls under his belt, Trai Turner said he’s seen the biggest shift mentally.
Turner joined Jim Rome to discuss how he’s changed since first entering the league in 2014.
“I was so much just about athletic ability,” Turner told Rome. “Just my physical attributes. I think what I’m trending toward now is more mental. Going into games with more mental clarity than I had before. And I think that just speaks to my, my aging in the league and being here.”
As many NFL players find out, the mental aspect of the game defines bad players to average ones, good to great ones, and great to elite ones. The talent gap isn’t large even between stars and backups. There’s a much more obvious discrepancy at lower levels of football. The dude in college destined to be an NFL star going up against the guy who is going to be that star’s accountant five years from now. In the NFL, everyone is part of that 1% who made it to the top of the game. To reach the height of your potential means combining physical with mental ability. That’s what made players like Antonio Brown and T.J. Watt the superstars they were/are.
Turner credited working out with Hall of Famer Jackie Slater this offseason for helping to develop his game. He says he hopes 2021 can be the year where those attributes and health all come together.
“Going into my eighth season, but still young. Still 28. So if I could just put that together mentally and also bringing in physical attributes, I feel like I could only get better.”
Turner has yet to play a full season since 2016. Over the past four seasons, he’s missed a total of 16 games, including seven in 2020 due to a groin injury. His play suffered and given his high salary, the Chargers released him after failing to find a trade partner.
The Steelers jumped on him once they realized David DeCastro wasn’t going to be ready for Week One and now they hope to reap the benefits of a healthy Turner.