Redskins assistant strength and conditioning coach Kavan Latham takes you through a typical game week, detailing his responsibilities each day leading up to Sunday.
In the middle of the offseason, the Redskins weight room is mostly quiet and empty. Occasionally, players filter through in the morning, stopping by to get a lift or treatment for their rehab, checking in to say hello and update staff on how their time away from football has been.
It's the one time of year – January through March – when the team's strength and conditioning coaches finally have some down time. They review last year's programs and how each player responded differently to workout sessions and drills while preparing for April, when players return to the facility ready to get back into shape.
"There's always a plan," says Kavan Latham, one of the team's two assistant strength and conditioning coaches along with Jake Sankal. After an injury-filled season, they got together with head strength and conditioning coach Chad Englehart and examined each player's routines and what could be improved for next season.
"Everybody's going to have their little tweaks and modifications and that's one thing I think we do the best of," Latham says. "Just modifying and working with these guys for each individual characteristic."
After wrapping up his first full season with the Redskins, Latham walks you through a typical game week at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. He shares his responsibilities each day and lets you in on how the training staff gets players prepared for Sundays.
Unlike most teams in the league, the Redskins designate Mondays as off-days. It's a chance to let players relax and recover hours after a hard-fought game. The strength coaches are around the weight room to assist with any kinds of recovery needed, but players aren't forced to come to the facility.
"We'll have a recovery workout set up for them," Latham says. "A lot of stretching, rolling. Essentially, from our point of view, the more we can help these guys recover, the better. That's our biggest thing, especially on Mondays. So we kind of encourage guys to try and come in and just move around."
Work begins early. Strength coaches start by organizing workouts for the practice squad members before running "open hours" for the remainder of the day. Players go through a series of unit and team meetings and many will head to the weight room in between sessions.
Check out images from the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams during their second day of Phase 2 offseason workouts at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
"The more of these guys, the more comfortable they are to come into the weight room, the more they realize that the weight room shouldn't be stressful," Latham says. "Obviously there's physical stress because they're lifting weights but we want guys to feel welcome in here, we want guys to want to come in here because the minute training becomes a chore that's when guys start to kind of go the other direction.
"Our biggest thing is communication, we talk to the guys, we figure out what's hurting them, what feels good, and we work around those areas, we work with those areas and we try to stay in as much contact with our training staff as possible and try and stay on the same page."
Wednesday and Thursday
The practice week officially begins on Wednesday. Most players have already done their first lift of the week on Monday or Tuesday, so their second lift typically comes on these two days.
"That second lift is when we hit the upper body stuff," Latham says. "We'll do a lot of Olympic movements, we'll do a lot of full body motions, stuff like that, just to keep these guys explosive, keep these guys strong."
Latham reiterates that the training staff tries to give players as many options for their workouts as possible, tinkering and modifying as needed so that each player has his individual needs met. Wednesday and Thursday are the two days where players work out the hardest, shaking off any extra rust and re-energizing for the week ahead. The strength coaches rotate leading stretches before practice and then take time observing position groups scrupulously for any kinds of issues.
"Chad [Englehart] might be watching the receivers and the quarterbacks, Jake [Sankal] might be watching the offensive line, and I might be watching defensive line or vice versa. We'll always just try and move around," Latham says. "It's good to see just different aspects of practice and we're just trying to key in on guys. If we see a guy kind of hobble off the field, like 'hey, so and so might of twisted his ankle, "or anything like that or "so and so might be a little tight today," we'll make note of it and we'll come back in and talk about it and we'll try and pull that guy aside and just figure out what's going on."
It's the best day of the week for a reason. Latham explains that the end of the work week is when the strength coaches want players to put in a "TV pump," a way of saying "we want guys coming in, feeling good, looking good."
The Washington Redskins' 2017 rookies hit the weight room and ran conditioning drills with the vets at The Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
The pump he's referring to is limited to just the arms. Coaches will set up a circuit and will run clocks, blast music and let guys get after it. They'll throw in some shoulder workouts and the occasional bike machine workout for some cardio.
"It's kind of like a Jedi mind trick," Latham says. "The more volume we can get on these guys, the better. The more we can get these guys trained the better, but also we want these guys to enjoy what they're doing. Everybody loves doing arms, so it's a really easy way to get these guys in here, third extra day and just get a little more work in."
The team holds one last walkthrough before a Sunday game. The practice squad will get a another lift session during the morning before taking the field and then the weight room remains open for anyone looking to get a final stretch or any kind of muscle or mobility work.
"The biggest thing here is just giving guys choices, letting guys know that they have the freedom to take care of the body parts that ail them," Latham says. "So if a guy comes in, he's got a tight lower back, we've got a program for him, we've got a protocol for hi. He comes in, he feels comfortable with us, we can work on him, 10-20 minutes, get him out feeling good."
Prior to kickoff, Latham spends a good portion of his time outside on the field, preparing medicine balls, bands and bungee cords to warm up as many players as possible.
"A lot of guys like to do different things to warm up," he says. "Obviously we still have our traditional team stretch or team warmup, but when it comes down to gameday, a lot of these guys are superstitious and they have routines and the NFL is a very routine based league, which is awesome so like I know, on game day, I need to be outside at this time, to do some special work with Shawn Lauvao, with Ryan Kerrigan, different stuff with Junior Galette, some different stuff with our defensive linemen."
Latham says it takes a couple of games to know player needs during pregame warmups and "then I talk to them after the game or halftime, if there's even a moment to talk to them, and figure out, 'How'd you feel in the first half?' Or, 'If you're a little more gassed maybe we should back off on some of the stuff you're doing in the warmup so you're not expending as much energy.'"
Once the game finishes, the strength coaches will let players grab a meal and relax. Monday morning, they'll convene and prepare for another week ahead.
"We'll meet as a staff and go over the injury report, see what we have and try and map out what we can do for the following week," Latham says. "Things are constantly changing."