- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Now that I’ve come down off my high from Iowa’s last-second win in the Capital One Bowl and with the offseason upon us, I wanted to take some time in my last column of the season to tell you how it really works.

I know everyone reads at the end of each season how the players clean out their lockers and head south for the winter. Well, it is kind of like that. The winters in D.C., are bearable, but the coast of Florida is pretty nice, too.

The norm for most of the players in this league is two weeks off — and I mean two weeks completely off. No weights, no running, no explosive movements and no ball skills.

Players need at least two weeks off to let their bodies recover and to nurse back together those parts that feel like they are about to fall off. I don’t know a player in the NFL who feels fresh after the season ends.

Something has to be rehabbed. Whether it’s an ACL or a finger, that’s the first priority on your list.

Sixteen games takes a toll on every player, especially the ones who have been around for a while. Sure, a lot of us head down to Florida or out to California and Arizona. Why not? The sun always shines, and the temperature hovers around 70 to 80 degrees. Everybody needs a vacation to sit on the beach, play golf, fish or whatever it is you like to do. Players are no different.

Vacations are called vacations because they give everyone a break from reality. I used to travel to San Diego every offseason to hang out, watch my buddies surf and start training for the next season.

The most important part of the offseason is the family time each and every player puts on hold during the season. You see, we can’t take off work to go see our cousins or uncles during the season, but during the winter months it’s time well spent.

We all need the time off to just sit down and relax.

For most of us, that lasts about five minutes.

Athletes are a different breed. We all need to be doing something, more importantly, something competitive. Instead of gearing up for Sundays, the Madden games on PS2 become a matter of life and death.

The difference is that empty feeling we get when we are shoveling snow out in the driveway instead of playing football with our buddies. Players do miss that competitive edge we get during the season. That is when it usually hits us. Standing there in the snow on a Wednesday afternoon, we realize there is no practice today, no meetings, no film sessions.

Actually, it is the beginning of next year. Today is the start of the 2005 season.

After these two weeks pass, each player will get into his personal workout routine and beginning preparing for training camp and next season. Sooner than you think, Redskin Park will be sweltering with August heat, and preseason games will be upon us.

In April, we’ll have minicamp. It’s each player’s responsibility as a professional athlete to show up in the best shape of his life and start working to win because that is what we play for. To win.

To be honest, I can’t wait for next season and I’m sure the fans agree with me. It’ll be here before you know it.

Ask Matt

Q: What is a walk-through?

A: A walk-through can be described in many different ways, but here it’s a practice without hitting. We review our assignments at a controlled pace.

Staff writer David Elfin collaborated with Redskins safety Matt Bowen on this column, the final one of the season.

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