Offensive linemen, for the most part, are usually fat and jolly, but mention the words "training camp" or "two-a-days" and watch their happy disposition suddenly change to grumpy. If the end goal of training camp is to field the most competitive product, then a little hardship and adversity to help the cream rise to the top seems like a pretty good idea on the surface. But for offensive linemen, where calorie and sleep deprivation is tantamount to waking a sleeping bear, those hardships seem more like riddles in need of a creative solution.
Every medical journal or health article I've ever read recognizes the need for "8-10 hours of quality sleep in order for the average person to operate in an efficient and optimum manner". Not that offensive lineman will ever be confused with the term 'average', but what does that mean for 300-pound football players saddled with less-than-ideal sleeping conditions and nasty bedtime dispositions?
Like a Les Stroud episode of Survivorman, resourcefulness and cunning are sometimes requisites for football players looking to survive the long, hot days and nights of a typical training camp. In typical fashion, pro football players are never too eager to trade the swaddling comfort of home for sterile college dorms. Make no mistake, schemes are being hatched, plans being made and alliances formed, all in the name of a good night's sleep.
As a matter of fact, the same amount of detail and energy that goes into studying your play book, goes into developing a training camp plan to overcome the very flawed, metaphoric bedroom dilemma, "how to get a size 14 foot into a size 8 shoe". If you've had the pleasure to play alongside the likes of Jerry Crafts, Juan Roque or Thomas Rayan, all impressive right tackles that made my 300 pounds look incredibly small, substitute that size 14 for a 20! Large, larger and largest football players, invading the hopelessly cramped confines of CFL training camps are all faced with the same uncomfortable problem: "How do I find comfort and a good nights sleep on a bed designed for a 17-year-old college freshman girl?" Given to comparisons and having seen my share of body types throughout a dozen CFL campaigns, I can see how QB's and WR's can occasionally be mistaken for college co-eds, but not Big Jerry Crafts, who tipped the scales at 6'8'' and an unprecedented 400 pounds. Just because it looks like a bed doesn't make it so.
Offensive linemen thrive on anonymity. After all, if they never have their name or number called out during a practice or a game, chances are they're excelling at their job—and that's a good thing. But being forgotten and flying under the radar can be a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to seat assignments on commercial flights, the inequity in road trip per diems and yes, training camp accommodations.
Ever the clever, resourceful animal and always adapting to his surroundings, the offensive lineman has developed some pretty unique—and in some circles, impressive—ways in order to grab a good night's sleep. In an offensive lineman's world, where you are limited only by your imagination and the amount of calories you can consume in one sitting, creativity is a very welcomed asset. For your reading pleasure, in no particular order, our top five restful tips...
1. Always ask to share the same dorm house with a rookie Lineman. Chances are he won't last the entire camp and when he sneaks out in the middle of the night or is unceremoniously cut by the camp 'reaper' you can grab his mattress, add it to yours and increase your sleeping square footage. If you want to hasten the process, make sure he is an import defensive lineman and consistently kick his ass during 1-on-1 drills! If you really want to hasten the process, explain to your new 'import friend', it's not only the currency rate that's continuously fluctuating between our two countries, but timezones as well! Once he takes your heartfelt advice and re-adjusts his alarm clock, a late rookie is a cut rookie. Feel free to grab the pillows as well.
2. Bring your body pillow, your blow-up mattress or your favorite stuffed animal. Creature comforts from home are much more conducive to a restful sleep. Got some pull with the coaching staff? Wives or girlfriends, but not both, make great cuddling buddies.
3. Air conditioning and satellite TV are a must for any good night sleep. The savvy veteran will always resort to a good movie or his favorite TV show to encourage a restful slumber. All is right in the world with a climate-controlled room and 400 channels to choose from. For those cagey veterans who can't quite acclimatize, an impromptu retirement, a trip to the delivery room from a strategiclly impregnated spouse 9 months earlier or a kitchen mishap are all great strategies that will ease the pain of attending training camp. The latter by the way was executed to near-perfection by former team mate and good friend Jude St. John. A dropped butcher knife on his foot and by combining the first ever 'eating injury' with a valid excuse to miss parts of training camp, Jude achieved O-lineman immortality!
4. Those Tylenol-3s, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories don't just have utility when it comes to getting your body right and getting back on the field. Strategically placed and chased down with a cold beer and the feeling of your shins banging against the footboard, you can float off into distant memory. Add a few thousand calories of simple carbs, like a Bulk Barn bag of M&M's, and a good night's sleep is only an insulin spike away!
5. When all else fails and exhaustion from two-a-days becomes the one great equalizer in the battle against a restless sleep, in that case just do what you were invited to do: work hard, work harder and work hardest, and the 'getting a good night sleep' thing will just take care of itself.
Sweet dreams, big fella, and don't let the bed bugs bite.