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Soup of the Day Post #2 - Taking The Test

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The biggest thing for today is anxiety. Anxiety is in everyone's mind and gut today, because the conditioning test was today. The thought of it just hangs over your head while you're also thinking about training camp with the hitting, the running, the players, the plays and the special teams. It hangs over my head that I need to compete at this and pass the conditioning test before I can even start to think about any of those other things.

You can train the entire offseason and it comes down to today. It's like a boxing match, you can train the entire time for the test, and on the day of the test you might not feel well. It's like boxing, you can train, train and train, but you just might not feel up to it. Your muscles may be tired, it could be anything. If you do train, it's going to give you a shot. You have to train in the offseason in order to have a shot at passing. It's how I look at the season. You can go through all of these hard things: the blood, sweat and tears, but ultimately those factors come down to what gives you a shot. It gives you an opportunity to be something special. You are something special; it just gives you a chance to be special.

The anxiety of passing the conditioning test doesn't fully pass until our first day of practicing with pads. Players come out swinging right out of the gates. Last year we came out of the gates in full pads, which is what tomorrow will probably be like. It's a feast or famine deal, flight or fight. Starting tomorrow, it's not Organized Team Activities, it's not working out, it's about taking all of those things and transferring them to a playing field.

This is a point where we talk about the core fundamentals of winning, and practicing is at the top of the list. It's that championship caliber that I touched on in my last post. It's that caliber of practice that sets the difference. We are looking forward to starting that journey. How we came and weighed in, which showed that a lot of people took my advice from the last post, everyone was under their weight limit. We have guys that are in shape and ready to go. In the three years that I have been here, this was the best first day that we have ever had. For all of the guys to pass the test, it really sets a positive mindset for the team for the duration of camp.

The conditioning test is a 300 yard shuttle, with different times for different groups. A shuttle is 50 yards in length, run six times. You run from one point to another, touching a point and running to another.

Small group: Running Backs, Defensive Backs, and Wide Receivers
Time to complete: 56 seconds

Medium group: Tight Ends, Linebackers, Quarterbacks, Punters, and Kickers
Time to complete: 58 seconds

Large group: Offensive Linemen and Defensive Linemen
Time to complete: 60 seconds

Right before the run, everyone talks about the conditioning they did in the offseason. At one point, you have to question yourself whether or not you did enough training. It's like a test in school. You believe that you have prepared for it, so you feel confident going in to it. For some reason, I never feel that way. When I show up I always feel that I didn't do enough to prepare for it. Maybe I didn't stretch enough, I didn't get enough deep tissue massage, I didn't eat the right amount of carbs, or I'm not properly hydrated. So you talk to the other guys to see who you match up best with. I talk to Scott Fujita, who's one of our great runners on the team, and he tells me that he's going to ace the test.

Hearing that makes me feel better. I think to myself that I trained pretty well for it, but I have to find someone to run with. I have to find a rabbit, someone to chase. I thought Scott would be someone I could run behind. Scott, a natural runner, says that he hasn't run all off-season. I was thinking that I could probably hang about 20 yards behind him and still pass the test. As he kept talking, he said that he hasn't just run the conditioning test, he decided to run mountains. Just like any human being would do, we go run mountains – it seems like the right thing to do. So I decided to go with my natural instinct and not run with Scott.

I decided to run with Mark Simoneau, who did come in with a good solid base tan, and I feel that he'll be able to avoid sunburn. I thought to myself, if this is the kind of guys who can follow the kind of guidelines that I set forth, then this is the guy that I can follow. We both passed the test, and rest is history.

I touched upon in my last post that you can come to camp in shape, but you can't come in in playing shape. Over the next four days, we have a lot of two-a-days. It's going to feel that it's about two weeks worth of work, because the staff is going to throw as much at you as possible. It gets so long, that you will find yourself mixing up practices, routes and plays. I could be talking to the coaches about running a play that was only three practices ago, but it feels like three weeks ago. Camp is a grind. Anybody that tells you that they enjoy training camp is probably lying. It's rough, it's hard, but it's something that you have to do. It's a stepping stone to having a great season and getting to a Super Bowl.

Throughout my entire career, one thing is that I've never taken my job for granted. When I take that step on the field I realize two things: 1. Someone is trying to take my job and 2. Someone could embarrass me at anytime. In that mind frame during camp I have to go out and win a job, especially with the addition of Jeremy Shockey, who's obviously a great tight end. I'm excited to have him as a teammate and watch him play. He's one of the guys I enjoy watching play. There are always a couple of guys from the tight end position that you watch, just like any position. You want to see how they handle things, and he's one of the guys that I watch.

I'm excited to have him as a teammate, and I think that we will work well together. We have over 30 years of experience between the tight ends in our room. There are a lot of guys that can play, and there are a lot of things that they can do. We each have our strengths and our weaknesses. We work hard to get the best things out of each guy to put together on the field. So this is obviously a spot that is going to make us better as an offense.

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