The Cleveland Browns had to call a timeout before the first snap of the game Thursday night in Baltimore.
Seems the defense had 12 men on the field.
But what I’ve always felt, and experienced as a player during my travels around the league to four different cities, is that the mental break is even more important.
“NFL players are not robots and the grind of the season is real, so guys cherish their time away.”
People forget: A lot more goes into playing this game than what you see on Sundays. There’s a new playbook install to ingrain … every week. New scouting reports to study … every week. New film to digest … every week. New personnel packages to run through … every week. New call sheets to draw up … every week.
And then you add in the meetings and the practices and the walk-throughs and the lifting and the treatment. Like I said, it’s a grind. By the time midseason rolls around, players almost become robotic.
And when rookies hit the wall come mid-November, it’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing. These young cats can run all day. They aren’t beat up like eight-year vets yet. Heck, most of these guys are still built like rubber bands. But some aren’t used to the demands of the job when it comes to the prep time, the game planning or the film study. That can be a major adjustment from the college game. And by this time of the season, that mental exhaustion starts to take its toll.
But even for the vets, the players who attack this daily routine like true pros, the time off is a beautiful thing. And it doesn’t have to be some wild vacation.
For me, it was back to Iowa a couple of times on the bye week. Watch the Hawkeyes, drink some Busch Light, see old college teammates. I loved it. And I needed it. The same when I got older in the league. Back home to Chicago, over to New York, whatever.
Hey, take a two-day trip with your wife. Go watch the kids play a rec soccer game. Get to a warmer locale. Maybe a weekend in Miami for the young guys.
Really, it’s not so much about what you do during the bye week, but what you don’t do. And that means you get away from the game altogether. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but you would be surprised how many players come back from this mini-break ready to play.