COSTA MESA, Calif. — Melvin Gordon finished last season with 55 rushing yards across two playoff games. Hobbled by several injuries, he lacked the explosiveness of the back who averaged more than 5 yards per carry in the regular season.
“I wasn't my best,” Gordon said on Tuesday. “And that kind of sucked not being at my full potential.”
Gordon is entering the final season of his contract that’ll pay him $5.6 million this year. He told reporters that talks of an extension have started, saying, “We're talking right now, and that's kind of where I'm going to leave it.”
With a slew of knee injuries in his past, including most recently ligament sprains in both knees in 2018, Gordon has changed his offseason routine the past two years. He skips the Chargers’ offseason training activities now, remaining in Florida where he trains with System8 and its partner Athletix Rehab and Recovery.
How Melvin Gordon plans to be faster for 2019
Gordon spent much of his first year in the new routine improving imbalances in leg size and strength, both results of years of wear and tear. Now in 2019, Gordon hasn’t needed to reform his body. With two weeks less of prep work than the year prior, Gordon’s training has no limitations.
“This year we're expecting to see a faster Melvin, a more agile Melvin,” said System8 founder Adam Boily. “You know there was a couple runs where he got caught or almost got caught last year on some breakaways and that's not going to happen this next [season].”
Gordon’s evaluation process started with Athletix Rehab and Recovery’s Dr. Sharif Tabbah, who also works with Alvin Kamara and Lamar Miller among others. Tabbah was pleased with Gordon’s maintenance in dynamic stability. These exercises, such as single-leg squatting on a Bosu ball, challenge stabilizing muscles.
After the season, athletes’ muscles normally aren’t operating at 100 percent. If the quad were a mansion, Tabbah said, only half of the lights would be functioning. Using a device to shock the quad muscle during exercises, it helps eliminate the pain and inflammation Gordon fought during the season while growing the muscle.
“That first year it's a lot of rebuilding the foundation, getting everything ready to continue to build on from there,” Tabbah said. “It makes sense the second, third and fourth years, we continue to develop that further as we get to know the athletes and we get to iron out any kinks.”
Gordon is flexible, but it’s beneficial only when the strength of muscle coincides with its range of motion. Otherwise, as has happened with Gordon in the past, muscle movement can be floppy and expose ligaments for injury.
So Gordon has worked extensively in low angle strength positions with Boily. Last year Gordon didn’t have power from this position. That attribute is usually reserved for more compact players like Miller, who’s 3 inches shorter.
This year, Gordon’s moving the bar at a similar speed to his training partner, according to the device that measures barbell speed. He’s squatting around 500 pounds, too, often utilizing band resistance to further instability.
It’s translated into running back drills where Gordon shifts around a series of trash bins, height barriers and even his running back coaches.
Gordon works out with other running backs such as Miller, Carlos Hyde and James White and thrives off the competition. At 6-foot-1, Gordon’s stride length is his biggest asset. He may not have the fastest 40-yard dash, Boily said, but from 30-50 yards into a sprint he’s as fast as anyone.
The power from Gordon’s stride can be seen in single leg drills. Before mini camp, he dominated a drill in which players broad jump forward before bounding from leg to leg.
In a light practice for the Chargers on the first day of minicamp, Gordon looked every bit the top-tier running back he’s established himself as. He cut explosively from both legs and burst out of the backfield to catch passes down the sideline. It was the early 2018 Gordon, not the playoff version.
Last year that success started in Florida. Gordon knows as much. That’s why he’s back.
“I felt before I got hurt, I was balling,” Gordon said. “I was doing my thing and when I find a plan that works for me, I just like to stick to it.”
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