The Jacksonville Jaguars faced a serious problem during the first game against the division rival Tennessee Titans in 2008. By the end of that game, the team was facing the loss of two starting offensive linemen to season-ending injuries.
It was another season where the team suffered significant injuries at key positions, setting the table for more struggle and disappointment.
Injuries are always a curious problem, and in many instances it can be nearly impossible for a team to determine where the problem lies. Football is a violent game where injuries are simply a part of the sport. Still, the past few years it seemed like the Jaguars were being dealt more than their fair share of significant injuries.
In an effort to resolve this matter, the Jaguars made the move this offseason to go in a different direction with their strength and conditioning.
Head coach Jack Del Rio fired Mark Asanovich, the long time strength and conditioning coach, near the end of last season. Luke Richesson was brought in as his replacement, and to fit his style the team immediately went about making significant changes to the weight room and training equipment.
Richesson, the self-proclaimed "movement specialist" was hired away from a combine training institute in Tempe, Ariz. His goal for every exercise, whether it is weight training, running, or anything else, will be to keep his players healthy and properly conditioned for the type of movement they are required to perform in the NFL.
Each player was evaluated to determine his mobility and stability. Richesson has a seven-stage test that grades each player from 0 to 21. For those players that score below 14 on the test, the risk of injury is considered to be higher than it would be for those who score in the upper third of the scale.
Richesson has a solid track record to stand behind. As the head of the program that prepared several players for the NFL combine, he worked with Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs, and Brady Quinn, helping them to improve their power in sprints and in their overall game.
Richesson is confident that he can turn around the rash of injuries that have become a fact of life in Jacksonville. By catering his training program to raise the mobility and stability scores of his players, he hopes to be able to prevent the same type of nagging injuries that have plagued the Jaguars in recent years, including a high number of hamstring and knee injuries.
The strength, conditioning, and movement programs are all integrated to help players improve not only in strength and mobility, but also with their overall conditioning and endurance. Preparing for training camp and the demands of the 16-game NFL season will make it imperative that the players are at their peak and ready to go, and Richesson is prepared for the challenge.
It all sounds positive, and the hope is that things will turn around quickly for the jaded Jaguars. It is one of the most difficult issues to identify a cause, and even more challenging to find a fix. The new philosophy sounds effective in theory, but only time will tell.