If you want to take a break from all the free agency and draft talk, you might be interested in checking out the Michael Johnson Performance Center, which is the Official Training Partner of the Dallas Cowboys.
This is not just some gym. This is a high tech facility for college and professional athletes. It is a place where many of the Cowboys will be putting in some of their off season time. And it is not just a place where they go on their own. The team actively encourages its players to go and avail themselves of some cutting edge training.
Birddog26, our semi-resident scout/trainer, once again clued me in on this and provided some background information. But if you take a few minutes to check out the website, you will see that this is a place for some serious work.
I have done past articles about the impact the off season could have for the current Cowboys players. Taking a look at what is going on at MJPC, I am even more encouraged that many of the current players will come into the 2012 season more effective than before.
Some of the reasons why after the jump.
The center is run by Michael Johnson, who won four Olympic Gold Medals as a sprinter. And the ties to the Cowboys run deep, because the Director of Performance is Lance Walker, who was an assistant Strength and Conditioning coach for Dallas.
That is important in my eyes, because it says that the relationship with the team is more than a casual one. That is a point that gets my attention because it would indicate that the information flow is pretty open, making sure that the off season work by the players fits in with the goals the team has for each of them when they avail themselves of this facility. In addition to the staff, other coaches, such as Birddog26, use the facility for their clients. He also told me that the center provides specialized training under an arrangement with the team.
What exactly is specialized training? Well, there are certainly some clues in the technology section at the website.
One of the things used is Dartfish, which uses high speed video to help athletes break down their moves and figure out how to improve. On the MJPC site, one of the quick demo videos shows how using the right starting technique and proper body control significantly improves performance in the three cone drill used at the NFL combine.
A more interesting one (to me) and one that seems to be getting into almost science fiction stuff is the Nike Sparq Sensory Performance (SSP). This video gives you a quick overview of what goes on with this. (The Lance Walker that shows up in the video is the same one that works at MJPC.)
It is a strange looking concept, but apparently is very effective. And if you don’t think this stuff is at all real, you can get a very small sample of what the idea is with these three interactive demos from MJPC. (Hit the blue hexagon that says “Test Your Skill” to play around a little.) I think it will give you an idea that this is not just smoke and mirrors. BD26 is utilizing this, and since he works a lot with defensive backs, you can see how vision might play a big part (can you say “track the ball”?).
Along with Myotest and Fusion Sport, these technologies have taken the idea of measurables up a quantum leap or two. This is not just sweating with some weights and doing some wind sprints. The training for NFL and other top athletes is now a science, and the Dallas Cowboys have integrated these state of the art programs into their off season work. While I am certain all the teams are using some similar arrangements for their players, I doubt that anyone has a better program going.
It is a fascinating subject, at least for me, and one BD26 is understandably passionate about. And it’s a nice change of pace to look what the team is actually doing right now, rather than all the maybes and what ifs.
“It’s really hard on you,” the Patriots safety said, “but you’re not saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ We make it through it. The more you do it, the easier it gets to make it through an uncomfortable situation.”
“Jarrad is the nicest guy in the world, but when practice starts, he’s really starting to find that other person,” said [trainer Jay] Glazer, who doubles as an NFL reporter for Fox Sports. “We find their breaking point and push them past it. Jarrad Page is a beast now.”
“You can never show your opponent you’re hurting,” Page said, “even when they’re killing us.”
“We work on arm drags, and on the football field, if someone is putting their hands on you, you can use your fist to get it off,” Page said. “If you pound on a guy’s arm throughout the game, he’s not going to want to stick it out there.”
“It’s about being explosive. It’s a lot of stuff you can relate to the field. It teaches you body control, helps put body parts exactly where you want to put them. Football is a violent sport. There’s no better training.”
Much of the focus is mental, with breaking your opponent’s will and thriving in the fourth quarter as goals. How far has Page come? Glazer puts his charges through a crushing three-minute drill to try to break them, one that includes constant 30-second reps. Half of the athletes don’t last three minutes.
“Jarrad did eight minutes the other day,” Glazer said. “He didn’t show any sign of slowing down. Jarrad Page thought he knew what he was capable of. You ought to see him now.”
Tom E. Curran reports a bit more about the Patriots players’ under-cover-off-season workouts under the guidance of trainer Brian McDonough in Foxboro.
“We’re covering all the bases from a strength and conditioning standpoint,” McDonough said. “We have a turf field, a 40-yard sandpit, everything under the sun for strength, a network of people around me providing yoga, physical therapy, pool work, massage, everything I need.”
“It’s a pretty big shift in what they’re used to,” he explained. “Paying for health insurance, paying for someone to train you as opposed to having someone pay you to work out. Their mindset seems to be, ‘Let’s control what is in front of us, what we can control. We’ll be in the best shape possible and let everything fall as it will.”
”[Jerod Mayo is] one of the most pure leaders and respected people I’ve seen. Ever,” McDonough said. “He’s constantly communicating with them, holding everyone accountable. They all do, really. This group has a great dynamic.”
Christopher Price notes Gary Guyton’s reaction to Jerod Mayo making the NFL Network’s Top 100 list:
“The only thing I know is that Jerod’s a great player. To me, he’s the No. 1 player in my eyes,” Guyton said of Mayo. “He does great things. He’s a student of the game. I wish and I pray nothing but the best for him. He’s a good player and a good guy and a good person.”