Five weeks, 35 days, 840 hours.
The middle of June until the third week of July. Sounds like a lot of time, doesn’t it? In reality, it is almost next to nothing and over in a blink of an eye.
I speak of the time frame in between the end of mandatory minicamp and the beginning of training camp.
This period is golden to anyone who has ever worked in the NFL. Players, coaches and staff utilize this time to get in anything that cannot be accomplished or done in season because once the season starts, there is only football.
From the middle of April until the middle of June annually is the offseason program. While these hours are generally less intense than in-season work, the days can still be long, and due to the increasing spring and early summer temperatures, very hot at times.
Phase I-III, OTAs, rookie and veteran minicamps are still a lot of work. Draft prep is a huge chunk of time, and there are some stretches when staff members will work two weeks straight without a day off. During this period, there are new players in the building who are learning everything.
There is extra work for rehabbing players, who are putting in new programs and routines, and you can’t forget about practice. Some days, it doesn’t feel like the offseason at all. With increased roster size during this time period (90 players rather than approximately 65), it can be more hectic and busier than the regular season.
This is why the downtime during the five golden weeks before training camp is so important. It is a time to re-charge, relax and prepare for the eight-month grind ahead.
For players, this is the time that social media is buzzing with workouts and vacations. Pre-hab, or prepping themselves for the rigors of training camp, takes up much of their time, but rest assured, there are many trips to beaches and family time.
For staff and coaches, it is no different. Vacations and downtime start almost immediately after that last day of minicamp. From time to time, there are players in the building either continuing rehab or just working out on their own, but this truly is a dead period. The parking lot is mostly empty, the locker room clean, the weight room quiet.
The first couple of weeks are filled with catching your breath, decompressing and filling in the gaps. Getting things done around the house that cannot be done at other times is huge. Seeing friends and family takes a big chunk of time. Some travel home; some stay in town.
It is basically whatever helps to take one’s mind off football for a short period.
Personally, I would always attend an educational conference, schedule as much golf as possible and go on family vacation. This would always culminate in a sunrise wave-runner ride on the Lake of the Ozarks for my final “moment of zen” before heading to training camp for a month. I always felt like after that, I was ready to tackle the season.
While one may be away from the facility or athletes, however, there are still countless phone calls being answered and texts and emails that need a response – either in prep for camp or other reasons. The wheel never stops turning.
All staff members have a different role to play in prep for camp. Between the ordering of supplies, scheduling deliveries, physical setup of the facilities and countless other jobs, one can’t just show back up from vacation and do it all at once. This takes months of planning to get right.
Again, this is why the downtime is so important, it’s absolutely required for all involved to get away for a bit before they get together again for eight months.
You see, once camp starts, it is all work all the time and that must be viewed as a good thing. The day-to-day operations of football are a grind, especially in camp, and there is no way to do it without being totally focused on that and ready for it to begin.
In the busy, hectic, awesome world of the NFL, this is one of the only periods of balance. It is the only time to re-energize and re-charge.
Those that work in the lifestyle must soak it up while they can.
Aaron Borgmann is the founder of AB Rehab Solutions LLC. He spent 12 years in the NFL as an assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist before joining Arrowhead Pride.