VBT, GPS, HRV, Circadian Rhythms? NFL Teams are getting high tech and the Raiders are joining the club.

Great article by Christoper Hansen from the Bleacher Report on the changes that Head coach Jack Del Rio is making.

Source: www.bleacherreport.com

Hiring four people to spearhead the effort was the first of many changes. The Raiders haven’t had more than two strength and conditioning coaches in recent memory—probably ever—so it’s safe to say they are going to be doing more than spotting players in the weight room.

Head strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes, assistant strength and conditioning coach Darryl Eto and strength and conditioning assistant Wesley Miller all previously worked at EXOS, a company that operates several training facilities for top athletes and preps many top college players for the NFL combine.

Stanford’s former director of sports performance Brandon Marcello considers Eto his mentor. Alexander Wolff of Sports Illustrated profiled Marcello’s work at Stanford in 2011. Paul Chin of the San Francisco Chronicle did the same about some of his unorthodox methods in 2009.

The Raiders didn’t hire Marcello, but it’s safe to say they have a similar philosophy. Eto actually drew criticism for modern training methods when he was the director of strength and conditioning for the Houston Rockets, according to Patrick Harrel of thedreamshake.com.

The New York Times detailed some of Gomes’ methods in 2007 in which he has a group of individuals at EXOS for a boot camp of sorts alternating between a hot tub and cold plunge. Gomes takes the group through prehab exercises, movement preparation, elasticity drills and recovery. Some of these are just fancy names for elements of an unusual training program.

Like Marcello at Stanford, EXOS is really into nutrition. The Raiders could be preparing for some rather large changes to the menu in their cafeteria. It’s not like the Raiders were serving up fast food last year, but to have the menu specifically tailored to each player based on their performance and recovery needs is likely something new.

The fourth member of the strength and conditioning staff is Kevin Kijowski, who spent a year at Fort Bragg implementing sleep-monitoring systems for military personnel. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has his players wear bracelets that monitor sleep, and Raiders new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave spent last year on Kelly’s staff.

Kelly also measures urinate output after practice to measure hydration, has players wear GPS devices during practice and tries to get as many reps into practice as possible because of the limited time NFL players are allowed to be on the field. With lackluster quarterbacks, Kelly is 20-12 in two seasons as head coach, and his offenses have finished fourth and third in points scored.

It’s unconventional, but at least Kelly is doing everything within his power to maximize talent. It’s not like there is zero research to back up his methods, even if it’s not substantial. It’s hard to say that the Raiders have been maximizing talent in recent years, which could be why owner Mark Davis fired Allen, but general manager Reggie McKenzie is still on the job.

The half-hearted warm-ups before an extended stretching session at the start of training camp practices under former head coach Dennis Allen are unlikely to continue. The Raiders will also probably dump the slow, learning-intensive practices that made an episode of Mr. Rogers seem like a Metallica concert and replace them with something grounded in data and not the illusion that the players learn more by doing less.

Time will tell what changes the Raiders are actually able to implement, but even putting in the effort to explore them is a huge step in the right direction. The Raiders have an opportunity to get out in front of the data-driven revolution in the NFL, and it appears as though Del Rio’s staff is willing and capable of doing so.

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