What NFL players and coaches do on their summer vacation

After mandatory minicamps ended this week, the official NFL vacation season has started for players, coaches and executives. After grinding through an intensive offseason program that featured OTAs (organized team activities), minicamp practices and strength and conditioning sessions, players are given about six weeks to rest, relax and recharge for the NFL marathon that could extend into the middle of February, for those fortunate enough to be members of a title contender. 

For coaches, scouts and executives, the final horn at mandatory minicamp ends an 11-month grind that featured a full NFL regular season and a cluttered offseason that tested their ability to plan, evaluate and develop various personnel within the building. From upgrading the roster through free agency and the NFL Draft to conducting self-studies on tactics, schemes and personnel trends, the four weeks from mid-June to mid-July give football people a chance to catch their breath after a whirlwind ride. 

As a former player and scout, I remember how much I cherished the sabbatical between the end of the offseason and training camp. The chance to sneak away on a family vacation out of the country or visit family and friends around the U.S. is a top priority before spending the months of August through January sequestered from the outside world while focusing on becoming a key contributor to a championship squad. 

Given some time to reach out to a few players and executives on how they will spend their month away from the team, here are a few thoughts.

Time for some “R & R” 

The grind of the NFL offseason takes a toll on players despite the importance of the preparation process. Players routinely take a few weeks off after the Super Bowl before hitting it hard in the weight room and field to improve their speed, strength, conditioning and skill. With most players opting to work out five-to-six days a week, the weeks after minicamp are an ideal time to scale back on workouts while taking a vacation to declutter the mind. 

Looking at the calendar, the Fourth of July is the vacation cut-off date. The holiday is three-plus weeks from the start of training camp, which gives players enough time to ramp up their workouts to prepare for conditioning tests and the grueling nature of training camp. Although the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has altered the two-a-day format from my playing days, the cumulative effect of the physical pounding and monotonous practice repetitions can leave players physically and mentally drained. 

With that in mind, players must find a chill spot to relax for a few days before jumping back into the rat race. I have always enjoyed visiting the Caribbean or Mexico to soak up a few rays in a relaxed environment with a good book in hand — with resorts offering a variety of spa services, including massages and yoga classes, to alleviate the stress of the upcoming season. 

Today’s players spend more time traveling overseas to the Greek Isles and various European destinations. Whether cruising the French Rivera or checking out the sights in Italy, players take advantage of their final sabbatical before training camp kicks off at the end of July. 

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Prepare for the marathon

After taking some time away from the monotonous routine of the NFL calendar, players and executives ramp up the preparation process at the beginning of July. Players will spend a few weeks working with their trainers to refine their skills and ramp up their conditioning. Although the work done throughout the offseason program under the watchful eyes of their team’s strength and conditioning staff should prepare players for the grind, the additional work with the trainers should help players hit training camp in peak condition. 

For coaches, the month away allows the staff to conduct a self-scout on the work done throughout the offseason program. Coaches will have a chance to review and discuss some of the schematic experiments showcased in practices and minicamp workouts. Whether it is a new formation, passing concept or blitz adjustment, the spring/summer practices are the perfect time to put things on tape to see if the chalkboard experiments work as well on the grass. 

With a few weeks to study the film and review post-practice notes, the summer break enables coaches to refine their playbooks and call sheets as they prepare for the training camp installation schedule. 

Scouts and executives will use the next few weeks to compile emergency boards with a list of available players before training camp. Some prospects are veterans patiently waiting for a perfect situation to open up, while others are low-level free agents who could fill a spot at the bottom of the 85-man training camp roster. With so many names to manage and organize, the next few weeks will give scouts a chance to put the finishing touches on their “just in case” lists. 

Finalize the message 

While everyone is busy working on their preparation plans, the head coach reads books and listens to podcasts to find a few motivational nuggets that will inspire the team during the dark days of camp. Coaches will check out books from business leaders and sports figures to find the right quote or story to put the team in the proper frame of mind in training camp. 

In addition to scribbling notes and highlighting pages from their favorite reads, the coaches’ iPhones are loaded with podcasts from innovators and motivators around the globe. Given the importance of messaging and setting the vision, coaches are working around the clock to find the perfect message to set the tone for the season. 

Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He regularly appears on “Speak For Yourself” and also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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