An Inside Look at 'Game Week' in the NFL

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterSeptember 2, 2013

With the 2013 season about to begin, former NFL safety Matt Bowen gives you an inside look at the weekly schedule and practice routine players will work through as they prep for game day. 

Monday: Film Review, Lifting, Correction Periods

NFL teams will pick up an extra day of game prep this week because of the preseason schedule and roster cuts. Reduced game plans will be handed out (final game plans arrive on Wednesday), and both sides of the ball will start their advance study on their Week 1 opponent in the film room.

However, on a typical Monday during the regular season, players will start their treatment routine for injuries and go through their first weightlifting session of the week.

Those lifting sessions are consistently adjusted based on injuries, but they are crucial to maintaining strength, power and flexibility throughout the season.

That’s all done before the midmorning team meeting, special teams meeting and breakout sessions (position groups) to study, review and highlight mistakes from the game film from Sunday.

After two to three hours spent on the film, the team will head onto the practice field for a correction period in shorts and shells (helmet and jersey) followed up with conditioning work with the strength coaches. 

And for players that are injured, they will be right back in the training room to grab some more treatment before they head home.

Tuesday: Players' Day Off

Players aren’t required to be at the facility on Tuesday per NFLPA rules, but you won’t find many veterans that avoid working on their "day off."

While coaches put together the game plans on Tuesday, the majority of pro players will get back in the weight room, receive extra treatment on injuries and spend most of the day studying film.

This is the ideal time to get a jump on your opponent, identify tendencies and begin to gain a feel for opposing personnel. Throw on the tape, study the cut-ups (tape selected on down and distance, personnel, formation, etc.) and take notes.

If you want to act like a true pro, then Tuesday is one of the most important days of the week in terms of game prep.

Wednesday: Game Plans, First- and Second-Down Prep

With fresh game plans and scouting reports being handed out, Wednesday can be looked at as the first official day of "game week."

These are long days for players (some teams will start before eight in the morning and finish after six at night). Coaches will vary practice times (early-morning sessions compared to late-afternoon sessions), but the schedule is the same in terms of install and special teams.

The core schemes are installed on Wednesday with first- and second-down packages as the priority in both base and sub-units (regular and nickel). Plus, both sides of the ball will begin their prep for pressure situations. That equals time spent in the meeting rooms, in walk-through sessions and on the practice field versus the scout team.

On special teams, the game plan for punt and punt protection is installed, and you can count on dedicating valuable practice time to the kicking game.

*Players will complete their second weightlifting session of the week.

Thursday: Third Downs, Sub-Package Pressure

Think of the same Wednesday schedule in terms of the time spent at the facility with the focus shifting to nickel (or dime) situations.

Teams will install their third-down package in the meeting rooms and work on sub-package pressure situations versus the scout-team units.

I always felt Thursday was the most important day of the week because of the game situations you run through on the practice field. And if you want to win on Sunday, then you have to produce/finish on third downs.

Convert and move the sticks, or make a stop and get off the field. There is a reason we called third down the “money down” in the NFL.

On special teams, Thursday is reserved for kickoff and kickoff return. Study the tape of the opponent, set the game plan and work through both core units out on the field.

*Players will complete their second weightlifting session of the week.


Friday: Red Zone, Goal Line, Two-Minute

Players are out of the facility by early Friday afternoon, but the time spent at the facility and on the practice field is important because of the specific game situations.

Both sides of the ball will install and practice their red-zone game plan versus the scout team, work through their goal-line packages and run through the two-minute drill.

Teams will also practice backed-up situations (inside the 10-yard line), cover “exotics” (gadget plays) and shift their special teams focus to PATs, field goals and the “hands team” (onside kick).

And that’s done after a review of all four core special teams units (punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return).

The main thing on Friday in the NFL? No mistakes. This should be a clean practice with a limited amount of time spent on corrections.

*Players will complete their third weightlifting session of the week.

Saturday: Walk-Through, Travel

After early-morning meetings, the players are out on the field in shorts and jerseys (no helmets).

Both sides of the ball—plus special teams—will walk through the entire game plan (including exotics). This is a review. That’s it.  And if you’re not ready to play by Saturday morning, then you are out of luck.

The walk-through takes less than an hour. Wrap it up, and get ready to head to the airport for an away game or report to the hotel later that night for a home game (players stay in a hotel the night before games, even at home).

Teams will go through a final review in meeting rooms at the hotel on Saturday night and head to bed (hopefully) ready to compete on Sunday.

The Importance of the "Game Week" Routine

The schedule we just ran through will vary based on the coaching staff. Meeting times will change, and practice routines are scripted based on areas of concern for each team.

I played for five different head coaches (Mike Martz, Mike Sherman, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Dick Jauron), and they all had their own unique approach to the schedule and the base install. 

However, the routine is the key.

Players are accustomed to having a schedule that allows them to set lifting/treatment routines throughout the season. Plus, you know how each day is going to play out from a scheme/install perspective.

And once you are in that routine, it doesn’t change for the next 16 weeks.

Is it a grind? Sure it is. Bodies break down, and you will get mentally drained. But if you can manage the schedule and develop a consistent routine, you will survive the season in the NFL. 

Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.