From MMA training to float tanks and four-hour massages. We caught up with London's Jack Crawford to find out more about his weekly routine as a defensive tackle with the Atlanta Falcons:
For me, Monday is all about recovery. We meet first thing for a workout, run and stretch. We do a lot of body weight exercises as well. It's more of a restoration day. You'll have a lot of stress from the game and usually in a bit of pain. This is followed by 'tell the truth Monday'. Where we meet up, tell the truth about the game from the day before and look at the tape. The head coach will go over the game and you'll get the good truth, the truth you wanna hear and then the ugly truths. You have to accept those ugly truths in order to get better. After that I'll go back home and get a massage, which will take about three to four hours.
Sometimes we'll go out for team meals on Monday nights, typically it will be a steakhouse, last time we went out for Sushi. Usually though everyone is so tired they just want to relax. Other than that, I'll watch a movie with my girlfriend or play the PlayStation. I like to play Overwatch with my friends, we spend quite a lot of time on there.
This is our day off, but I like to use this as a day to look after myself. Since I arrived at the Falcons, I've realised how much I need to take care of my body. Some of the injuries I had earlier in my career were a result of me not taking my recovery seriously enough. So now on Tuesdays I'll go for acupuncture, a Pilates class and flotation therapy, which is like being in a float tank. I'll also go and see a chiropractor. I've felt my body has been a lot better for it over the last few years.
I try to have a balanced diet, but I can't eat the same thing every day. One night I'd have tacos, the next Italian food, then sometimes I'll just have a steak. Probably the hardest decision in my life is what to make for dinner. I try to keep it fairly clean, but it's not as easy to stay healthy here as it is in other parts, like California. There's a lot of fried food and I try to find places that are not too unhealthy, but still taste good.
Wednesdays are the equivalent of a Monday in your typical office job. They are very hard days. I'm up at 6.30am to drive to work, we'll have a lift session in the morning and then I'll have meetings all through the day. We'll have a walk-through followed by a practice, then another meeting after practice. We start our scouting reports for the team we are facing that week. We'll watch film on that team. Talk about the game plan and situations. We'll look at first and second downs.
It's just a process that we put ourselves through as a team to get ready. It's probably why you can't play 50 games in a season and why you can't play for 20 years. Every game takes up so much of your time, preparing mentally and physically. It just takes so much out of you. We don't finish work until about 6pm. It's very typical within the NFL to have long days on Wednesdays.
Thursday is another long day and usually the same as Wednesday, but we'll spend the whole day looking a Third downs. One thing that is different here to any other club I've been a part of, is that on Thursdays we get time off after practice. We don't have a meeting after practice but we have to do something focused around recovery. Whether that be going into the cold tank or sauna, or getting work done on injuries. There is a really big emphases on recovery here. It's a chance to take care of yourself and I think it benefits us.
I've also found that MMA helps improve my game as a defensive linesman. A lot of people who play this game are not comfortable when people are right in their face. That's their weakness. The more comfortable you can be with that, the more success you are going to have. MMA just helps reinforce that. It also helps with small muscles that we don't train. We bench press, we squat, we do a lot of lifting and training for big muscles but there are some small muscles that you don't work. It also helps with your hand strength, balance and when you are fighting with another person. The only thing harder than football physically is combat sports like boxing or MMA.
I've trained with someone down in Florida who trains American top teams. The gym down there is probably the biggest MMA gym in the world. I don't think I would want to do it professionally; I don't think I want to take any extra hits or trauma to the head, any more than I've got from football. I'd love to be in that world and compete, but for me I think it would be best to stick to Jujitsu. I do plan on trying to start that after I'm done playing.
Fridays we look at short yardage and goal lines. So, we'll practice plays when they are backed up on their goal line as an offense. Then we'll run plays when they are down in our Redzone and we are backed up. It's just looking at different scenarios and it's how most teams plan out their weeks.
It's been great having Aden Durde here. I've known him since I was at the Dallas Cowboys and it feels like I've known him longer than that. In terms of bridging the gap between the UK and America, there is nobody who is as valuable as he is. It's been great to have him here. I think he's going to have a long career. When he told me he was working here, I couldn't believe it. As a fellow Brit who understands where I came from, we have a close tie. It's great to learn from him and I always listen because he's so knowledgeable about the sport. He's been a major help to me and everyone on the team.
On Saturdays we come into work, have more meetings and walk-through as a team. We normally get done around noon. Then we'll have some free time, but we have to check into the hotel by 6pm. When we are away from home would we do this anyway, but at home we also have to check into a hotel. We then have more meetings at the hotel and a 9.30pm bed check. Everyone has to be in their room by then. I might watch a little bit of tape the night before and then I'll try take my mind of the game.
I don't like to analyse too much before the game because a lot of it is about reaction. It's about getting your mind right for the moment as opposed to trying to learn everything you could see in the game. You'll never get that right, there is always going to be things that you're not expecting. As long as you have the right approach mentally and physically then you have a higher chance of being successful.
Sunday is game day. I'll wake up and sometimes I'll do some meditation to calm myself down. I have the calm app on my phone which I use. We have to be at the stadium two hours before the game, but I always try to get there three hours before. 45 minutes before kick-off we'll go out and warm up as a team for about 25 minutes. You try and stretch your body out and keep warm as you might be a bit tense and nervous. Then we get ankles and wrists taped, whatever you may need. I'll then listen to music and try to get my mind right.
After the game I'm normally exhausted, but I'm not tired so I try to just relax. I'll hang out with my girlfriend and watch Netflix or I'll get online and sit on the PlayStation. I don't typically watch the game right after, it depends on what kind of game it was. If I had a good game, I'd probably watch it, but if not then I won't. I think I speak for most players when I say once I get home, on any day, I don't plan to leave. Unless it's related to recovery I try and take care of myself.
So, after having a weekly routine in the NFL for eight years, what advice does Jack have for the younger generation coming through the NFL Academy?
There is nothing that outweighs effort and consistency. That's not just your performance, that's everything that you do. Everything matters, every decision, on the field or off the field, everything contributes to the end result. There are people who have tried their hardest and haven't made it, but they have ended up somewhere because of the effort they made. I think it comes down to how good you are at narrowing your focus onto one objective and in the end that's all football is. Just narrow your focus to one goal, the more you keep your focus, the higher chance you have of being successful.