Training Camp

Chris Long on Maintaining Weight

Editor’s Note: Chris Long breaks down his experience with nutrition in the NFL and how it helps separate good teams from struggling ones.

There are guys in the NFL that are overweight and underweight, generally, and you’re fighting in either direction. Some people are lucky. They weigh exactly what they are asked to weigh when they arrive at camp.

College Experience

I was consistently an underweight guy, even dating back to college. I played in a 3-4 defensive scheme. So 285 was my weight. I walked around now at about 253. As a 37-year-old man, it’s hard to keep that weight on in the first place. I have a hard time keeping weight on. So I would walk into the college weigh-in with a couple of two-and-a-half pound weights—the little, tiny plates that fit in your pocket—in my pockets to get over 280 and inch closer to 285.

Managing Losses

There are challenges, and I think one of the big things is anticipating the attrition, the kind of pile-up. Not only does this make you lose a ton of water weight—every day, it could be ten to fifteen pounds of water weight—but it also kind of wears down your muscle tone. Coaches always think in training camp that you’re going to be able to build strength. That’s not the case. Everybody’s bodies are so worn down the best you can do is maintain—if you’re lucky. 

You’re going to lose muscle tone. So for me, it was coming into camp and knowing I’m underweight. So I’d be packing on a little bit of muscle even at the risk of being a little less explosive knowing over that month, my body is going to break down a little.

That’s OK because when I get to week one, I’ll probably lose enough to settle right at the playing weight that I desired, which was about 265 most of the time in my career. But I would show up to camp weighing 273 pounds knowing I’d probably lose 8-10 pounds by the season.

Peek Inside an Al Groh Practice

I’ve been down 12-15 pounds after practices. Probably more even in college. In Virginia—a pretty humid place—we practiced in a bubble, and Al Groh was our head coach. He’s part of the Parcells coaching tree, so I’m sure some people here at The 33rd Team have coached with Al or know Al well. 

There was a lot of hitting. There were long practices, and these were the two-a-day days. After that CBA in 2011, when we stopped really having two-a-days, it got a lot easier replacing that weight. When you were young, when we had two-a-days—or in College—you might lose 12 pounds twice a day

Now kids are losing 12-15 pounds once a day, and that’s way easier to recoup and keep your muscle and weight where you want it to be.

Franchise Variance

It was really challenging after two-a-day practices. Two-a-days are rough because you would get back to practice, and not only were you tired, but your pads were also still wet! It’s a reminder that you just did this a few hours ago. And if you haven’t replaced your fluids and your foods, it’s going to be a problem, 

A franchise is going to vary, just like a restaurant. I was in St.Louis for a while, and I’m not dogging anybody because they’re not a franchise anymore. They are the LA rams, and I’m pretty sure they have pretty good food out there now.

But when I was in St. Louis, we were on—especially during the seasons which is really criminal—a three food-genre rotation of choices. On Monday, it was Chinese. Then, on Wednesday, it was Mexican. On Friday it was like pizza, and sometimes they’d mix in some Popeyes. That’s not good! That is not what we should be eating. When you think about it, NFL players are allegedly some of the best athletes in the world. We’re like Ferraris, and we’re putting regular fuel in a Ferrari. That’s not great. 

That’s the bad end of the spectrum.

How Good Teams Operate

The good end of the spectrum is a place like New England or a place like Philly. Where everything is really gourmet and really intentional. When there is a marrying of the nutritionist and the chef, and there is an effort to give football players a “football player meal” that is healthy and that tastes good. 

Always, on the first day of camp no matter how bad your food is, they are going to roll out the red carpet for you. They want to butter you up for that conditioning test, and carb you up a little bit that first day. There is that big buzz. The first meal is always good. But then by day three, you find out what that franchise is all about. Day one is easy. It’s usually steak and lobster.

Day four… day five…. day six. That’s when you really find out what kind of food you’re going to be eating, and it does vary from spot to spot.

Video

Giants, Top 2 Picks Could be in for Long Season

So far in the preseason, one of the stories I’ve keyed in on is the performance of some of the NFL’s high-profile rookies. The New York Giants, for example, have two 2021 top-10 picks — Evan Neal and Kayvon Thibodeaux — that I had the opportunity to observe. Here are my thoughts on these two Giants rookies and what worries me about their early showing. 

Evan Neal

First, let me contextualize what I’m about to say. Last year, by Week 2 of the preseason, a lot of people were sure Penei Sewell wasn’t going to pan out. And then he became an important piece and continues to be on that offensive line in Detroit, which I think will be a real strength of the Lions’ team along with their running backs. 

That said, I wasn’t a big fan of what I’ve seen from Evan Neal in the first preseason game. But I thought Evan Neal was top-heavy. I was worried after watching him about his ability to anchor a bull rush without leaning forward and getting pulled by. It’s something that showed up a couple of times; he was on the ground twice in the first series. 

I’m sure he would tell you all of this, I’m sure his coaches would tell you the same: It wasn’t a great day as far as getting overextended. For example, the Giants ran a play-action pass, with the action away from Neal. He was supposed to cut off a New England defender, but he got so far down trying to get across his face that the Patriots player shucked him by and disrupted the play, and  ultimately led to a Josh Uche sack. That shouldn’t happen in this situation. 

I’m sure there are some positives you could draw from Neal, but the one thing that concerned me was how top-heavy he was. It seems like something he’s got to work on from a technique standpoint. But generally, guys who are top-heavy and who lean — that’s a tough habit to kick.

Kayvon Thibodeaux

One of the things I’ve talked about concerning young pass-rushers is their “scale.” You see Travon Walker on the field with the Jaguars. The scale you saw at Georgia with him translates to the NFL. He looks huge in that two-point stance. His long arm is effective, he’s strong, he’s twitchy enough. But the thing I worry about with Walker is his finishing. Aidan Hutchinson, although I have concerns about the top of the rush with him, he’s going to be, at least, a pro player. And when I talk to people in Detroit, they like him.

I haven’t heard much about Thibodeaux from inside the Giants organization, but I can tell you I think he will have to work hard on his technique. 

I think the one thing he has going for him is that he’s a good hip turner at the top of the rush. That’s a fluid motion for him. But in the NFL, you need a mechanism to get to the top of the rush. So whether it’s the double hand swipe or the inside-out that he started to work the second possession in the preseason, he has to figure out a way to get there and get there quick because  I don’t think, for an edge-rusher as slight as he is, that he’s extremely twitchy. And he’s gotta work his hands better. He seems to lay hands on people, not put them on people, and there’s a difference. So he’s got a lot of work to do.

It will be interesting to see how challenging it is — especially in the New York media market—if he ends up in a little slump. I started my career in a slump. For a year and a half, I wasn’t exactly a guy who got to the quarterback, and a lot of pressure comes with that. But I played in St Louis, he plays in New York, and so I anticipate this might be a tough year.

You don’t know what’s going on at quarterback, so the team might not be great immediately. The patience isn’t going to be high for these two picks. That’s the reason I zeroed in on them, and I think there’s a lot of work to be done.

Scroll to the Top