Joe Flacco did a Pilates-style stretch during the Super Bowl blackout Sunday in New Orleans. Other Ravens and 49ers were seen stretching, running, even napping on the sidelines. Is there any ideal way for a football player to stay on his game during such an unexpected delay?
The answer is no, not specifically. Experts have varying recommendations.
It took 34 minutes to get the game going again (part of an 84-minute span in which the Ravens' offense was not on the field, according to the CBS broadcast). The delay was so long because of the Super Bowl halftime, including building a stage and a fierce Beyonce mini-concert.
Teams usually have defined procedures for getting warm out of halftime, though it is often up to the players themselves to do the routines. That leaves a lot of leeway.
But, looking at the data, there's no significant increase in the number of injuries that happen in the early third quarter, especially those we'd assume to be due to tight muscles, like strains and sprains.
One of the biggest issues for both teams was that the blackout was an unknown. Not only could they not prepare for it, there was no way to know how long it was going to last.
Because of that, Dr. Mo Skelton, a certified strength coach and physical therapist from McCurtin Hospital in Oklahoma, believes that mental focus was more important.
"The Ravens were clearly relaxed. Terrell Suggs was laying on the turf. Physically, you'd like to see full range movements," Skelton explained.
B.J. Maack concurred. Maack, an athletic trainer and certified strength coach at Arkansas Sports Performance Center, said, "These are grown men. You can't yell at them."
Maack shared one of the dynamic stretching routines he would have used in this situation, pictured below.
An NFL strength coach who could not comment on the record due to NFL rules strongly criticized his colleagues on both sidelines. "I saw a lot of players doing things, but I didn't see anything organized. I didn't see Ray Lewis or Kaepernick at all, though it's hard on TV, but at the point where they realized it was going to be extended, they needed to get to the guys quickly," he explained.
"The first you get to is the guys who have issues—guys who need extra stretching, are dealing with an injury, or those types," he continued. "You get to the starters, especially the speedsters, wideouts and [defensive backs]. I'd have gone back quickly to the things you do after halftime of any game. Every team has that routine down and it would have just taken a couple words, a couple checks, even getting the coaches to pass it around."
There have been other power outages and other delays in football games. Just as the coaching staff prepares for plays it doesn't expect to see (like a fake field goal!), the medical staff needs to be prepared for situations like what we saw at the Super Bowl.
That said, many strength coaches insisted that the players themselves know what they need and tend to have a finely tuned sense of their body.
The best parallel is one that is regularly seen, but in another sport. Baseball has rain delays on a regular basis and teams there have procedures regarding how to handle them.
Much depends on the anticipated length of a delay and the focus goes on the current pitcher. Teams tend to try and keep him warm, literally, and often have him do some light tossing in addition.
Every manager will have a rule about how long a delay will go before he shuts down his pitcher. Of course, that's not really an option in the Super Bowl. Flacco and Kaepernick have to stay in, and neither seemed to have any issues.
While announcers and columnists will go on and on about momentum, the real difference may have been in what happened during the blackout and not after. It was a chance to see a part of the hidden game of football, right there on the sidelines.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Will Carroll has been writing about sports injuries for 12 years. His work has appeared at SI.com, ESPN.com and Football Outsiders.
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