In 2013, the Packers ranked 30th out of 32 teams after several key starters missed significant time due to injury, including QB Aaron Rodgers (seven games), WR Randall Cobb (10 games) and LB Clay Matthews (five games). The Packers ranked dead last in the AGL metric in 2012. They hope the injury trend does not continue, and they're taking action to see that it doesn't.
One player who’s managed to avoid injury is Packers Pro Bowl CB Tramon Williams. The eight-year veteran has missed only one game in his pro career, having played in 122 of 123 games.
Williams was inspired last off-season by a chance meeting with former All-Pro WR Terrell Owens. He inquired about Owens’ secret to playing 15 years in the league.
The football fountain of youth, Owens explained, is yoga.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel detailed Williams’ pursuit of yoga and how the practice has gained traction among several Packers players:
Williams infused his already hellish off-season workouts in Houston with morning yoga. Some days, he’d do a round of hot yoga, cranking the thermometer to 95 degrees. Already flexible, already a human highlight film on the team basketball court, he discovered new ways to contort his body.
Cobb and CB Jarrett Bush, two players who have followed Williams, are practicing Flow Yoga with local instructor Ryanne Cunningham. (Rodgers is also doing yoga, and he credits the work for helping him lose 11 pounds this off-season.)
Cobb told the newspaper, “I’ve definitely made strides and if I continue to do it, it’ll help out even more just with my elusiveness and being able to move around on the field. It helps me open up my hips a little bit more, and having that flexibility to elongate my muscles a little bit more will help make me faster.”
In the article, Bush says, “Your muscles are in such high demand. Everything gets stretched and pulled and worked and yanked so many times, I think when you expose your muscles like that [with yoga], they get used to it. . . . Say you slip and you’re in that split position. Well, you’ve done that. It’s familiar. Your body says, ‘Alright, we’ve been here.’”
Bush says, beyond the flexibility and injury-prevention benefits, he’s improved his visualization techniques. At the end of each session, Cunningham has the players close their eyes and picture themselves on the sideline. “'Envision yourself holding your helmet,' she says. 'Envision yourself staring at the opponent across the field.'”
The Packers certainly aren’t the first NFL yogis. Arizona Cardinals All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson uses yoga with the intent of prolonging his NFL career, and Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro WR Antonio Brown is a seasoned yogi who recently stepped it up a notch by practicing Pilates in the off-season.
This article originally appeared on STACK.com: Green Bay Packers Discover Football's Fountain of Youth