A look at what the New York Giants did to shake the injury bug.
The New York Giants’ three-year reign as the most injured NFL team is finally over.
So says Football Outsiders, who every year publishes an “Adjusted Games Lost” chart.
Whereas the Giants finished dead last in the league, their players having missed 138.7 games due to injury, in 2016, the Giants had the seventh healthiest team in the league, with only 52.4 games lost due to injury by the players.
While part of the injury equation (or lack thereof) involves luck, here’s a look at some of the most noticeable changes the Giants made in head coach Ben McAdoo’s first season that probably contributed to keeping guys healthy.
Changing Strength Training and Recovery Philosophies
Ben McAdoo’s biggest hire, it seems, turned out to be new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman.
Wellman implemented numerous changes to the Giants weight room, from the equipment down to the philosophies. Per the New York Post, they installed Kaiser air-resistance fitness machines which puts less stress on the players’ bodies.
“For me, it’s about maximizing strength, speed, power and minimizing orthopedic stress on the body, mitigating risk—that’s what it’s about for me,” he told reporters last year when the assistant coaches met the media. “We try to put our players in the best position for that.”
Wellman’s workouts also appear to be more customized to each player based on how a player moves on the field and the physical demands the player’s position calls for.
Another difference? Wellman has eliminated the use of the big black rubber bands used by the players to stretch immediately at the end of practice.
The Giants are only one year in with Wellman’s approach, but based on Football Outsiders’ stats, it appears to have made a difference.
Last year, 33 of the 36 players who would have, under the old injury reporting classifications, qualified as “probable” played in games; of those designated as questionable or doubtful, 30 of 44 players were ultimately available to the team that week.
Changing the Players’ Day Off
Another major change McAdoo made that in retrospect proved to be huge in keeping the bumps and bruises to a minimum was switching the players’ day off from Tuesday to Monday.
The logic behind the move was to allow the players optimal rest after a grueling four or more hours on the playing field the previous day.
The move apparently worked. Whereas in the past, the players would usually come in for a corrections practice and get a “recovery” lift in a day after engaging in high intensity aerobic activity and strength activities on the football field, McAdoo instead encouraged the players to get their rest, especially if travel was involved.
If there’s one thing one which trainers and workout enthusiasts can agree, it’s that proper rest and recovery does a body good. This simple switch seemed to reinforce that notion.
Practice might make perfect, but sometimes, too much of a good thing isn’t really good for you after all.
Hence the continuation of “Fresh Friday,” which, to be fair, was first implemented by former head coach Tom Coughlin in his final years at the helm.
The idea behind Fresh Friday, which was preceded by the team’s longest and most intense practice of the week on Thursday, was to give the players a rest from the physical grind and let them flex their mental muscles in the classrooms instead.
By allowing the players to recover physically, and then slowly ramping them up during the Saturday walk-through, McAdoo and his staff helped to eliminate those late-game fatigue spells that would sometimes crop up in the past, particularly in games played in warmer climates.
Further, by allowing the players an extra day of rest from the physical grind, it allowed them to better recover from any muscle tweaks or strains experienced leading up to the game.
Instant Recovery Snacks
One of the keys in proper recovery after a grueling workout is to replenish energy stores as quickly as possible.
Sometimes though, that wasn’t always feasible. Although the team’s cafeteria is just a quick shot down the hall from the players’ locker room, sometimes it took players a little longer than expected to the necessary nutrients into their bodies.
McAdoo and Wellman addressed that by setting up “grab-and-go” tables with energy bites, protein shakes and other various items designed to help the players replace energy and fluids lost during the workout and provided to be a big convenience and a big hit.