Over the next month, and leading up to training camp, NFL players are off of the clock—sort of.  Each one of them has received the speech from their coaches to stay out of trouble, use good judgment and given a reporting weight for camp.

But, can we really call it a “vacation?”

Yes, players will head home, get in some time to relax, clear their minds mentally and prepare for the grind of training camp and the regular season.  However, the players that show up for camp in football shape are the ones who use this time to not only work on their position specific skills, but continue to condition, improve their speed and maintain the strength they built throughout the offseason.

For some, that means heading out to California, down to Arizona, Florida, etc. and working with trainers who are schooled in speed and agility performance. Others do it on their own.

But, every player is different. During my career that meant following the guidelines given to me by Chris Doyle, the head strength coach at the University of Iowa, and going to work. Six days of training with one recovery day on Sunday. Train till the week before camp, warm down and go into the first practice fresh and ready to compete. 

The month of July is crucial. Of course there is time left over in the day to grab a golf club, fish for walleye, hit the beach, etc. But, it has to be treated with care.

We have to understand that it is near impossible to recreate a training camp practice doing drills, lifting weights and so on. No matter how great of shape you think you are in when you report to camp, that first practice is still a beast—because of the hitting. But, to prevent an injury—hamstring, groin, etc.—you have to use this time to push yourself over the limit and finish each day without question that you treated it like a pro.

For rookies, this is a big step. I don’t know how many times a rook showed up to camp, looked and played out of shape, and then found himself in the training room for an injury that could have been prevented if he used the month leading up to camp to prepare.  It is an eye opening experience. For some rookies, it is obvious that they treated the month of July like a spring break trip in college.

Let’s call it like it is: part of your job as a pro athlete. Use the time wisely, show some dedication and the payoff can be great for the upcoming season. Treat it like summer vacation in high school and it will show in your game.

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