The Official BLOG of

You are currently NOT on the Homepage
Please send any questions or comments to:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chargers offseason workouts begin Monday


The Chargers’ 2010 season doesn’t officially kickoff for another six months, but the team’s 12-week offseason strength and conditioning program begins Monday.

Player participation is voluntary, but since head coach Norv Turner arrived in San Diego in 2007, player attendance at the team’s offseason workouts has been near perfect.

“Everybody here knows the impact our offseason program has on the regular season,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Guys know and appreciate the time, effort and expertise our strength coaches put into the program.”

The importance of strength and conditioning for a professional athlete cannot be overstated, especially in the NFL. Among professional athletes, NFL players arguably endure the most strenuous and physically-demanding season. The ability to perform at the highest level for an entire season typically requires staying in top shape year-round.

The Chargers’ 2009 season ended a little more than two months ago and despite the need for down time, Rivers and several of his teammates have been at Chargers Park almost every day since.

“As a team, we understand the necessity of being here and getting it done,” Rivers said. “Young players, especially second and third-year guys, can really excel in different areas being around veterans this time of year.”

Jeff Hurd is the team’s head strength and conditioning coach, and along with his assistant, Vernon Stephens, oversees the players’ workout regimen throughout the year.

“There really is no offseason anymore,” Hurd said. “Everything, including the football activities, start earlier than they used to.”

Hurd has been spotting NFL players in the weight room for 15 years and remembers when training camp was a team’s one-stop shop for getting players in shape while simultaneously getting ready for the football season.

Most offseason programs span from March to June and are the norm in today’s NFL. Gone are the days when teams use training camp to whip their players into shape before a grueling four-to-five month season.

“In the past, training camp was used as the time to get players in shape,” Hurd said. “Now, training camp is the time to strategize and really get the football team fine-tuned. The time leading up to camp is when guys need to get in shape.”

In today’s NFL, a team will start and break training camp in a month. Twenty years ago, training camp lasted six or seven weeks. As a result, teams now use the offseason months to get a head start on conditioning and keep players as healthy as possible before the regular season begins.

Weight-lifting and running are the building blocks. Included in the Chargers’ offseason program is Mini Camp and 12 days of non-contact, on-field drills and exercises known league-wide as organized team activities (OTAs). Per NFL policy, teams are allowed 12 days of organized team activities.

With the NFL calendar as long as it is—preseason, regular season and potentially postseason games, players do not have the luxury of getting completely out of shape. And it’s unlikely they will, given the short time between the end of the season and the start of the offseason program.

“You can’t start exactly where you left off,” Hurd said when asked about the Chargers’ momentum during their 11-game win streak. “But it doesn’t take nearly as long to get a guy in shape because he’s not totally out of shape.”

An easy transition isn’t the only goal behind offseason workouts. Job security can serve as another motivating factor for players to stay in shape. Third-year linebacker Antwan Applewhite knows the importance of staying ready to compete, even during the offseason.

“If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” said Applewhite, a former undrafted free agent from San Diego State.

Applewhite missed 15 games in 2009 after tearing his hamstring in Week 1 against Oakland, but remains optimistic about reclaiming a roster spot in the upcoming year.

Hurd has been around football long enough to know how much a young player like Applewhite can benefit from participating in the team’s offseason strength and conditioning program.

“Injuries are a part of football,” Hurd said. “You can be in great shape and still get hurt, but if you’re in good shape, your recovery time is reduced. The bottom line is to try to get them as best prepared physically before they take on the football activities.”

“If you’re not in shape you fall behind,” he continued. “Next thing you know, if you fall behind, you’re out of a job because somebody is going to perform better than you, sooner than you do.”

Eager to make his mark with the Chargers, Applewhite is determined to not let that be his story.

“I’m here every day and will continue to be until somebody says otherwise,” Applewhite said. “I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking part in our offseason program. Besides, there’s no better place to work out than San Diego.”

Like Rivers, Applewhite calls the Chargers training facility his second home during the offseason months. So what makes a player want to be at work every day during the offseason when he doesn’t necessarily have to be?

“Being here together gets us ready to go out and have a great year,” Rivers said.

The team camaraderie involved in the Chargers’ offseason program is easy to see and speaks volumes about the strong leadership presence in the locker room.

“A motivated person can get in shape on their own, but anytime you go through something this tough as a team, it has a huge impact,” Hurd said.

Hurd admits that next to the football season, this is his favorite time of year. But he knows hitting the gym is a small piece of the puzzle. Teams can be in great shape physically and still lose football games. Teams also can battle through injuries, like the Chargers, who had success despite 10 players on Reserve-Injured, including three starters.

“There’s nothing like winning football games.” Hurd said. “An offseason program exists because there’s a football team, but lifting weights and running aren’t the only reasons for success during the regular season. It’s a combination of a lot of things. Norv has his finger on the pulse of everything. The practice schedule, the trainers’ efforts, time off…all those things play a role and fit together.”