RICHMOND, Va. — Mornings aren’t greeted with pain, at least not during this training camp. That’s always a good thing for Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. He’s learned how to take care of his body, tries to eat the right foods and get the right amount of sleep.
But it also helps that training camp has changed over the years. Before the Redskins practiced Monday, one of their former greats — offensive lineman Joe Jacoby — relayed a conversation he’d had recently with former teammate Russ Grimm.
“If our training camps had been like this, we could have played 20 years” said Grimm, now the Tennessee Titans offensive line coach.
Kerrigan agrees: All things considered, it’s OK.
“When you practice once a day it’s not that bad,” he said. “It’s not a bloodbath out there.”
But it still remains a difficult stretch of their work year. The Redskins practice two hours from their facility in Ashburn, Virginia, so players live in a hotel for three weeks. They also put in 13-hour days, with a few breaks scattered throughout.
“A lot is made of training camp, ‘Oh, the grueling days of camp.’ But it’s more mental than physical,” Kerrigan said, “because a lot of days are the same schedule that you’ve had the last two or three weeks. Physically, it’s not demanding. If you’re stretching, getting in the cold tub and getting enough sleep each night, you should be fine.”
Kerrigan is entering his seventh NFL season and is coming off his second Pro Bowl appearance. He knows how to take care of his body. That maintenance, plus good fortune, could explain why he’s never missed an NFL game.
Here’s a look at a typical day for Kerrigan:
7:10 a.m.: His alarm goes off for the first time. But Kerrigan will hit the snooze button for another 10 minutes of rest before getting out of bed. Kerrigan considers this sleeping in compared to the season, when he wakes up at 5:30 and arrives at Redskins Park about 45 minutes later to work out before meetings.
In camp, after brushing his teeth, Kerrigan heads to breakfast. That used to entail plenty of eggs until he was tested this offseason and discovered he had a sensitivity to eggs. So he cut way back on eggs and now eats chicken breast, a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and strawberries and avocado.
A special-teams meeting starts 40 minutes after his alarm first sounds. But because Kerrigan only plays on the field goal blocking unit, he can spend extra time at breakfast when other parts of special teams meet.
8:15 a.m.: The Redskins spend the next 90 minutes in position meetings, going over film and preparing for the walk-through. They’ll break every 30 minutes or so to stretch the legs and help prevent players from losing focus.
10:35-11:20 a.m.: The Redskins hold a walk-through to go over what they’ll be practicing later in the day. It’s exactly as it sounds: The players walk through their assignments. Players can lift weights before or after the walk-through — Kerrigan opts for the latter, lifting for 30-40 minutes. The bus departs the practice facility for the Omni Shoreham Hotel, where the Redskins stay, at 12:15 p.m. sharp.
12:30-12:45 p.m.: Lunch. It’s basic for Kerrigan: fish, some sort of starch (sweet potato, brown rice) and a vegetable, usually broccoli or asparagus. Because practice is a couple of hours away, Kerrigan also drinks a lot of water. For the day, he said he’ll consume between 10 to 15 bottles.
But post-lunch, Kerrigan and teammates can hang out in their rooms or relax. Some players opt for the ping-pong table they brought from Redskins Park, but for Kerrigan it’s time to chill. That often means watching certain shows, notably “The Office” or “Last Chance U.”
“I don’t know why it took me this long to watch [‘The Office’],” Kerrigan said. “It’s the funniest damn show.”
Buses leave for practice at 1:45 p.m. By the time Kerrigan and teammates arrive, there’s enough time to stretch with a foam roller and to get taped for practice.
3 p.m.-5 p.m.: Practice. After two weeks of camp, this is where it can be difficult at times to stay focused. There’s a reason the Redskins have had several pushing matches in recent practices.
“It’s when you see the same guy in front of you for two weeks,” he said. “You’re ready to go against someone else for a little change. That’s when it gets the most difficult. This is the practice you really have to lock in.”
Kerrigan and right tackle Morgan Moses square off during one-on-ones and again in full-team work. Neither one is a big talker, but after two weeks of camp, “There’s an understanding that we’re excited to see another face,” Kerrigan said.
After practice and a post-practice protein shake, Kerrigan stretches some more and then sits in the cold tub for 15 minutes, hoping to recharge his legs. The bus leaves for the hotel at 6:15. If you’re not ready, there might be one warning, but that’s all.
Many players sign autographs or give interviews before heading inside. That’s the tricky part: They do these activities even though it can disrupt their schedule.
“It can lower your recovery time because the shuttles leave at 6:15 on the dot,” Kerrigan said.
6:30 p.m.: Dinner. It’s similar to lunch in terms of having fish or chicken. But there are some specialties cooked by team chef Jon Mathieson. “Anything he makes is awesome, but he makes really good salmon, and the short ribs are the bomb,” Kerrigan said.
6:45-7:45 p.m.: More recharging. More watching favorite shows.
7:45-9:15 p.m.: The players review film, going over every period from throughout the day including individual work, one-on-ones, 7-on-7 and full-team drills. At the end, the coaches give a brief summary of what they’ll install the next day. That way players can study it before going to sleep. Kerrigan said it’s not tough for him to stay awake in meetings, but some teammates will use chewing tobacco to help or chew sunflower seeds.
“It’s a long day,” Kerrigan said. “It’s not that it’s physically grueling, but you have to be on all day. You have to pay attention, you have to be mentally in tune all day. That’s where it gets tiresome.”
Finally, the players are done with their obligations. To cap off the day, Kerrigan has a Greek yogurt or two. His go-to flavor: vanilla mixed with peanut butter. He admits it’s not the best combination, but he wants to avoid sugar late at night.
10:30 p.m.: After some free time — more TV or double-checking videos from their meetings — Kerrigan tries to be lights out. Another long day greets him in the morning.
“You get tired,” Kerrigan said, “but it’s not terrible.”