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Inside the NFL's Crucial 'Dead Period': Balancing Family, Charity, and Training

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Terron Armstead (72) answers questions from the media during training camp at Baptist Health Training Complex, Wednesday, July 27, 2022 in Miami Gardens.

Your wife wants to go on a vacation.

Your kids want to play with you all day since daddy is home and “doesn’t have work.”

Some of your friends scheduled a boy’s weekend (or week, for that matter) because they know that’s impossible for you during football season.

The Executive Director of your non-profit has scheduled multiple events to help raise money for a cause that is important to you.

And, oh yeah, you are still a professional football player who needs to be mentally and physically prepared for the six-month marathon that is the NFL season starting later this month.

We are in the middle of the six-week “dead period” on the NFL calendar, which is anything but for the players themselves. For many players, this is the most critical time of year for preparation.  

Balancing Life And Football

Each player is on their own; thus, their time is their own. As a result, there can be a huge disparity in the amount of work each puts in during this time. I’ve seen many players make significant strides and come back in impeccable shape. I’ve also had multiple teammates who gained 40 pounds during this six-week stanza.

Not only that, but it is the last window that players have before they must report to their teams for duty.

 “Yeah, this is a very, very important window,” Dolphins left tackle Terron Armstead told me recently on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast. “You go through the OTA and minicamp process, and then you break. So, this five, six-week window is really vital.”

“It's the summer, so a lot of your friends are free,” Armstead added. “They’re taking trips doing all summer activities. But this is really a time to challenge your level of professionalism. Sacrifices. Skipping some fun events and fun times, honing in on your training, your rest, your recovery, all those good things. It’s a very important window.”

While I agree with Armstead about making sure you “keep the main thing the main thing” in working out and getting ready for the season, those other people and aspects of your life also matter.  

It’s healthy to have some fun with friends during this time so you have a mental break from the stresses of football. Getting that out of your system is good because there is virtually no time for that once training camp starts.

It's also why I was blown away by what I experienced last week with recently retired Eagles center Jason Kelce and the other players attending Kelce’s back-to-back events raising money for the Eagles Autism Foundation in Sea Isle City, New Jersey.

I played for five teams during my career and never experienced anything close to as impressive from a charitable perspective as what Kelce’s family and the Eagles Autism Foundation pulled off. While Kelce may have retired this offseason, this was the fourth year he has had this event, and the crowd and dollar amounts raised grew each year. 

It is beyond impressive to see so many current Eagles stalwarts like Brandon Graham, Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, and Landon Dickerson take time away from their families and their training to give back. It’s part of the balance that every player tries to juggle this time of year.

This Time Matters

Goedert came to the event shortly after attending “Tight End University,” which is part of a growing number of position-specific training sessions that serve as something of a brotherhood and continuing education for players before they head into training camp.  

These positional gatherings are critical to the constant search for striking the right balance between training, family, friends, and charitable endeavors.  

Buffalo Bills edge rusher Von Miller hosted his Pass Rush Summit again last week as defensive linemen gathered to gain some insight into the tricks of the trade.

I’ll be attending the OL Masterminds clinic, which was started by Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson and offensive line guru Duke Manyweather in 2018. Like these other positional minicamps, it has grown in size yearly.

The reality is you can’t do everything this time of year, and tough choices need to be made. Do you hang out with your family or go to a positional clinic? Should you get together with your friends or host a charitable endeavor? And, perhaps most importantly, where does your training fit into this equation?

Keep this in mind as camps open: When we hear which players are in great shape and which ones, well, aren’t, more often than not, it is the decisions they made during the “dead” time that make the difference.