It’s a long and tough road to get to the NFL for most players, but it might be an even more difficult task to get yourself mentally and physically “Ready To Play” in the NFL week in and week out. As we work our way towards the start of the NFL season, we’re speaking with a different NFL player each week and getting a first-hand account from them on how they get themselves ready for all of the rigors that come with competing at the NFL level. Here’s Chicago Bears’ running back Ka’Deem Carey, discussing how he gets “Ready To Play.”
The person that I really watched and fell in love with his work ethic as I was growing up was Terrell Owens. I always admired how his body was ready every season. That was a big man. He had the abs, he had the chest, he had the arms, the speed, everything. The way that he trained I would emulate that in my training in high school and just modeled my workout after him.
I really try to take a good two weeks off right after the season. Maybe go on vacation just to clear my mind and really just recap the whole year and spend time with my family in either California or back in Arizona. I take that time to rest and try and get my body underneath me. After that two weeks, I get right back into it with some light stuff with some running, abs and just do a lot of conditioning. Conditioning is key. To go from not doing anything to getting back into the season is hard so I make sure that I condition well to show up to camp in shape.
For my position as a running back, the legs are the most important part of training and getting ready for the season. They’re constantly getting bodies thrown at them, helmets thrown at them, arm tackles that you have to break out of and you just have to keep your legs moving as a running back, that’s the biggest thing. I really start working on them towards the end of the off season.
These last four weeks I’ve been burying my legs and then I rest the last four days before going into camp to make sure I’m fresh. I really bury them during this time though. I do squats then follow that up with box jumps and then get on the stair master and go push the sled – stuff like that. I start running hills, too, during this time. All of that is really to make sure that when it gets late in the game, my legs aren’t tired and I still have that explosiveness because my legs are used to it.
My training regimen and diet has definitely changed since I came into the league. When I came to camp my rookie year I was actually overweight. I came in at 220 and they wanted me at 207 so I was in bad, bad shape there. I wasn’t huffing and puffing and I felt like I was in shape, but my body just wasn’t where it needed to be my rookie year. I found a pretty good routine after last year (my rookie year) and continued that this year to the point where I’m feeling great going into camp. In the lead up to that rookie year I would bury my legs the way I do now all the way up until the first day of camp. Now, I start that process a little earlier and make sure to take that four days off before camp starts to get my legs back under me for camp.
When it comes to my diet, after the season’s over, during that two week break I eat whatever I want. I eat ice cream, cake, whatever because my body can handle that and I’m fortunate to have a high metabolism. However, once I start getting into my training regimen and getting ready for the season I juice to get rid of all the bad toxins and bad fat that doesn’t need to be there. My wife and I will juice for a good four weeks going into the season.
At that point we’ll only have two times a week where we eat meat, the rest of the time we’re juicing and eating things other than meat. So for breakfast, for example, I’ll eat eggs or bagels or something like that. It’s tough to find things to eat that don’t include meat, but we’ll do stewed tomatoes or string bean casserole for dinner. Really just eating two meals (breakfast and dinner) while juicing throughout the whole day and drinking a lot of water.
The reason for not eating meat during that time period where we’re juicing is because meat can really slow down your metabolism and not allow you to burn the fat and the toxins as fast. The juicing really helps because during that two weeks where I eat whatever I want I can put on 10-15 pounds so it helps me to really get rid of all the bad fat and toxins in my body so that I come into camp feeling like a new man.
I always looked at Matt Forte and the way that he worked to try and model my training regimen after. He worked extremely hard and made it a point to take care of his body both during the season and in the off season as well. I watched what he did and got a good feel for it and then added my own flavor in terms of what works best for me.
He didn’t say too much to me in the way of advice but he did joke with me saying, ‘hey you can eat all this stuff now and still shed those pounds, but in two-three years you won’t be able to do that as easily’. I took that in and realized I am starting to get older and can’t keep eating all these white doughnuts or drinking pink milk and thinking it’s going to be okay when I get older.
As for the mental aspect, you always want to keep the playbook fresh. I take 20-30 minutes every day throughout my off-time so that I keep the plays fresh and on the top of my mind. Then towards the end of the off season around three or four weeks out, I really start to look at film. That’s when I start looking to see the safety rotations, try and catch who’s blitzing, if the safeties are playing low or high stuff like that. That’s when I’ll turn on ESPN and see what’s going on in the league because I try and stay away throughout the whole off season. But, in that last couple of weeks I’ll tune back in and get back into that excited feeling again.