When Jaguars players start trickling back into the team's weight room, they will immediately notice significant changes.
"The big difference they'll notice is the weight room will be overhauled. Gone will be 100-plus pieces of weight machines. I'm a movement specialist," newly-hired strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson told jaguars.com on Wednesday.
Richesson comes from a combine training institute in Tempe, Ariz., and takes over a Jaguars team that struggled through a season of injuries that led to a disappointing 5-11 finish. The injuries are thought to be the reason head coach Jack Del Rio changed strength coaches.
"Everything we do, whether it's lifting weights, throwing med balls or doing jumping exercises, is going to be geared to helping our players move on the field," Richesson said. "How strong do our players need to be? We're going to make sure they have the strength to overpower people and sustain a healthy career."
It is the pursuit of a "healthy career" that would seem to be Richesson's priority. He outlined his program for helping reduce injuries.
"We're going to have an assessment tool. (The players are) going to go through a seven-exercise test that'll determine what their level of mobility and stability is right now. If you have a (score of) zero or one, how do we get you to a two? A perfect score is 21. If you get below 14, your chance of injury is increased. That's one way we're going to insure health, to have that test checked and re-checked during the season," Richesson said.
Does he believe the program will, in fact, decrease injuries?
"There's no doubt about it," he said.
The Jaguars lost 115 games to injury last season.
Richesson spent the previous nine years as the head of a school that helped NFL prospects develop more power for their 40-yard sprints and increase their overall power. Julius Peppers, Adrian Wilson, Terrell Suggs, Marlin Jackson and Brady Quinn are a few of the players with whom Richesson worked.
"We have data from working with our NFL vets," he said of the seven-exercise test. "Speaking with colleagues, it's scary how accurate it is.
"I'm meeting guys on the fly. I've been here four days and I feel like I've been here five years. I think the guys are excited about the winds of change and the move toward functional training. The real assessment, though, is when I get them in the room and see their work ethic and see where we have to improve," Richesson said.
"We're going to have a strength program, a movement program and a conditioning program that is all integrated. We're going to have 30 minutes a day dedicated to soft tissue work (massage). (Trainer) Mike (Ryan) and I are going to be sure we're speaking the same language. I'm really excited about the potential here," Richesson added.
"The game is a violent game. The collisions are like being in a car wreck. The more functional training you can do, the more you can reduce the risk. The vast amount of injuries happen in training camp," Richesson said.
Therein lies another change in the Jaguars' new training regimen. In past years, Jaguars players took a month off between the end of offseason conditioning and the start of training camp. Richesson believes players can lose their conditioning edge in that time and he will reduce the lay-off from a month to two weeks, which is mandated by NFL rules.
How hard will Del Rio work the Jaguars in training camp? Will he be as demanding as he was of them in 2003, his rookie season as coach, or will be throttle back, as he has in recent years?
"What was the season you're coming off? Is there a statement that needs to be made to the players? Are you coming in healthy? Are you coming in with guns blazing or are you limping in?" Richesson said of the questions that have to be asked heading into training camp.
"You can make a strong case for either one," he said of the hard vs. soft training camp debate. "I love work hard, die hard, and I love let's work smart. The problem with work smart is you'll have guys get a little lazy. It's not easy to answer. That's where the art of coaching comes into play."
The renovated weight room will open on March 16, with the official conditioning program to begin a few weeks later. Del Rio has already said he expects all players to participate.
"Do our athletes know how to accelerate, shuffle? Can they move like an athlete? I want my big guys to be able to accelerate like a wide receiver can accelerate," Richesson said of what he intends to achieve in his program.
He's also a proponent of healthy eating.
"These guys are like NASCARs. If you put bad fuel in them, they're not going to run right. You have to establish an eating program," he said.