When asked what an NFL player does between the end of the final minicamp and the start of training camp, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu chuckled at an interviewer’s use of the term “offseason.”
“There is no such thing as an offseason,” he said.
The Seahawks wrapped up a busy spring of training activities on Friday, and they’ll have nothing formally scheduled until camp starts at the end of July.
Much of the practicing since the end of last season has consisted of what they call OTAs (Organized Team Activities). In that vein, they now enter the phase that could be labeled UTAs (Unorganized Team Activities) or ISWs (Individual Self-Motivated Workouts).
But there certainly isn’t as much LAP (Lounging Around the Pool) as there used to be.
It’s only a vacation in the sense that their presence at Seahawks headquarters isn’t required.
“… Coaches go on vacation, the weight room kind of closes down, everybody gets out of town for six weeks,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “That’s the point where you’re on vacation, but that’s when you have got to kind of gear it up physically. That’s when you’ve really got to get in shape.”
Hasselbeck stays in the Seattle area and often gets together with teammates who conduct their own workouts.
The team activities through the spring have been crucial in learning the new staff’s playbook. Now, the focus for Hasselbeck is getting the arm ready for a long season of firing footballs.
“For me, it’s the most important time,” he said of his upcoming schedule that sometimes includes two workouts a day. “Similar to a pitcher, you get your arm ready for competitive throws. That’s when you really sharpen your skills, and you know you’re coming back to camp (where) there’s a conditioning test, a body-fat percentage test, there’s a weigh-in … all that stuff’s coming.”
Tatupu said he’s going home to Massachusetts, where he will work out with old friends and be accompanied by another steady companion … his playbook.
“You look it over every other day and jog the memory,” Tatupu said. “When you’re not physically taking the reps out there, you tend to forget assignments or how blitzes are run. In order to hit camp running, you have to be sharp mentally.”
The studying is even more important this summer because the players have to learn a new system, Tatupu said.
That situation led first-year coach Jim Mora to adopt a new approach.
“A lot of times, at the end of camp, you collect their playbooks,” Mora said. “In coaching sometimes, there’s a little paranoia about your information getting out. But we’re asking these guys to keep their books because we want them to study so they come back and it’s fresh in their minds. That’s different than I’ve ever done.”
After a fairly steady stretch of structured team workouts, Tatupu said that this part of the summer can be more playful. He likes to swim and play basketball. “But you can’t go too hard on the basketball court because you don’t want to roll an ankle.”
And when he hits the gym to lift weights, he shapes his schedule around those of his old friends who work out with him. “Hey, you’ve got to have spotters … you don’t want that bar falling on you.”
Training camp is no longer a time for players to work back into shape for the season; anybody taking that approach will be blatantly unprepared.
As Mora pointed out, there’s only 15 days of practice between the July 31 camp opening and the first preseason game. There’s no easing back into it.
It’s apparent that the players aren’t really looking for time off. In fact, that seems like a bad thing in the NFL.
“The sad part is that the only time off you really have is when you don’t make the playoffs,” Tatupu said. “Unfortunately, we found that out, and we found out that’s not a fun time off, either. It’s a sad time because you see the other teams having fun on the field and being out there chasing after the ring. That’s not what we want.”
So, the Seahawks may be heading off to various locations for six weeks, but they’re all still aiming in the same direction.