Lifting weights, jogging on the treadmill, trudging up and down stadium stairs - that type of traditional offseason workout plan can get a little monotonous for even the most dedicated NFL athletes.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss was looking for an alternative way to stay in shape this summer, and a friend from his old neighborhood helped him out - using mixed martial arts.
Moss spent a few days a week with Lonny Intorn, an instructor at Punch Fitness in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Intorn showed Moss the same training techniques used by mixed martial arts fighters, which included a heavy dose of cross-training and kickboxing.
“Sometimes I go home in January and get crazy about working out and football stuff,” Moss said. “I wanted to take as much time as I can off and do something different. [We did] tire squats, tire throws, a lot of boxing and a lot of kicking until we got the form down. Then some days we put all of the combinations together - 30 minutes punching, 30 minutes kicking, kneeing, abs - you name it, we did it all.”
Moss was intrigued by the training regimen in part because he had taken an interest in the career of another Miami-based athlete, Kevin Ferguson - known to most as the street fighter-turned-Internet sensation-turned-MMA star Kimbo Slice.
So Moss started working with Intorn, who grew up in the same part of Miami and also went to college at The U. Intorn has worked out several NFL players, including Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and Santana’s little brother, Sinorice. He also trains professional kickboxers.
“It is funny, but when I get some of these [NFL] guys for their first workout with me, after the first five or 10 minutes they are on the ground dying - literally,” Intorn said. “They say, ‘I’ve never worked out like this before.’ After they are with me I can see the transformation. They are more cut, and they make it through the workouts.”
Moss isn’t alone with his new-wave training techniques. The team’s other starting wideout, Antwaan Randle El, also incorporated some mixed martial arts training into his offseason.
How the alternative methods affect Moss and Randle El long term remains to be seen, but there have been some immediate effects.
“If it was just run, run, run - that’s something I could do, but I was losing some of my muscle mass. But I’m not losing as much this year,” Randle El said. “I think the grappling [helps]. When you are on the ground wrestling with a guy - that’s how it is when you catch a ball and you’re tussling with a guy and trying to get out.”
Added Intorn: “I think it definitely gives them better movability and more flexibility. I’m one of those guys who doesn’t think you have to just always lift a ton of weights.”
One thing that is certain about Moss - he has been healthy during this camp. After being injured for much of last summer and slowed during camp, he is off to a much better start to the 2008 season.
Health has been an issue for Moss for the past two years. He set the team record for receiving yards with 1,483 in his first season with the Redskins in 2005 but has barely eclipsed that number in the past two seasons combined while missing a total of four games with injuries and being less than 100 percent in several others.
“This is my third camp with him, and I think this has been his best one so far,” Randle El said.
There have been glimpses of the old Moss during camp - the gamebreaker who averaged nearly 18 yards a reception three years ago. In new coach Jim Zorn’s offense, Moss could put his elusiveness to work and turn quick timing patterns into long gains.
A more dynamic Moss could be the difference between a solid Redskins offense and a great one.
“We feel that when we have him in the ballgame, it might just take one play,” wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said. “He has proven that before. We’ve beat people with just one play that he made. He’s a big-play receiver.”