The last time the San Diego Chargers were together was the day following their Divisional Round loss to the Denver Broncos. They met with coaches and said their goodbyes, knowing they wouldn’t convene again for quite some time.
After 14 long weeks, the Bolts finally return on a voluntary basis on Tuesday for the beginning of Phase One of the offseason program. While Head Coach Mike McCoy oversees the entire team, these next few weeks are run by Strength and Conditioning Coach Kent Johnston.
So in order to get the best assessment of what the players can expect over the next few weeks, we talked one-on-one with Kent Johnston .
“We’ll be rotating the players through three areas,” Johnston explained. “The first area is out on the field and is a speed development, conditioning and movement area. We’ll focus a lot on change of direction. The second area of course is the weight room.”
The last portion is a brand new one not only for the Bolts. Just like every team, the Chargers have long worked on ways to curtail injuries, but this year they’re adding a brand new type of injury prevention circuit.
“We’ve worked to develop a program that is five weeks in length,” Johnston said. “We’re going to try to specifically target (areas) by doing some things that are a little different in terms of helping the guys avoid injuries. Every team in the league is looking for new things, and I began working with another gentleman to develop the program during the season last year. There will always be things you cannot prevent. But there are other things where you look over your shoulder and ask, ‘Could we have done this? Could we have done that?’ So what this involves in a nutshell is balance, reactive, coordinative central nervous system work. We’re going to evaluate guys on that, and not everybody will start at the same spot on that. So it’s something that’s new that we just hope can be beneficial. Hopefully there are some things we can prevent and buy ourselves a good insurance policy on it.”
While this week marks the first time the 2014 team will work out together, each player has been working out diligently on his own throughout the offseason. Still, Johnston says the first order of business will be to see where each Charger’s fitness level is.
“The first thing we really want to do is see where everybody is at,” he said. “So the first couple days will be workouts, and within the workout we’ll gauge where each player is as they come back. We don’t anticipate anybody to be in bad shape. They’re professionals and they understand it all. At the very least everybody has been working out at least since the first of March. I don’t anticipate anybody coming in here thinking that this is the first workout. These next few weeks really are about preparing them for what they will be going through with their coaches.”
A former Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year, this season marks Johnston’s 22nd year in the NFL. While there are many important aspects of his job, he explained how this is always a particularly exciting time of year.
“A lot of what you want to do through this is build the team by making it fun, competitive and challenging,” he said. “So we want to work hard, work smart and have a lot of fun in the process. We know we’ve got to work like a hand in glove with the coaches and training department. So I’m excited to get the guys in here and get rolling.”