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Jaguars' pit number one


Making sure they left no stone unturned in their quest to be the best-conditioned team in the league, the Jaguars dug up whatever stones were in an eight-yard by 40-yard section of their practice field and filled that area with a foot of sand.

Say hello to the sandpit, the latest conditioning tool of football's "best-dressed" teams. The Jaguars had a sandpit installed in an area adjacent to their back practice field, and the players have been frolicking in it as if they were on spring break.

"It's not new. Pit training has been around for a long time. We feel it gives us a means for providing variety in our training. Do we absolutely need it to get the job done? Absolutely not. It gives us another tool in our tool belt," Mark Asanovich, the Jaguars' strength and conditioning coach, said.

Asanovich got the design idea from pits at Ohio State and Michigan State. Most pits, however, are only six inches deep. The Jaguars is a foot deep.

"We may have the best pit in the nation," Asanovich said sarcastically.

"We call it 'Desert Storm' training," he added.

The newly-installed pit isn't going to help Byron Leftwich get rid of the ball quicker, nor are the Jaguars going to find the next Jimmy Smith buried in that sand, but it has added energy to Asanovich's offseason conditioning program, as any new toy would.

"They like the variety. They like breaking the monotony," Asanovich said.

"I like the sandpit," Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said. "We used to do it in college. I think it helps us get faster and quicker, plus, I'm from the country so I'm used to running in the sand.

"It works a lot of muscles you didn't even know you had. It helps us with our explosion; getting off the ball quicker. It helps us with our lateral movement and at picking up our feet and getting down the line," Stroud added.

All of that is important to Stroud because he has big plans for this season.

"This is going to give us a chance to quiet a lot of people from last year who said we had a gimme schedule. If we can get back to the playoffs and make a run for it, that'll quiet the nay-sayers," he said.

Second-year offensive tackle Khalif Barnes is from San Diego, so he knows all about sand.

"It's like running on the beach. It makes the field-work easier. It strengthens your ankles. You've got to move faster so you don't sink, so, on the field you move faster," Barnes said.

"We're missing Fred (Taylor), obviously, but everybody here has attended 85 percent of all conditioning workouts. If they meet the 85 percent standard, it'll put us in the physical condition to compete at a high level," Asanovich said of his offseason conditioning program, which began on April 10 instead of the traditional late-March start.

"We didn't bring them back in the middle of March because of lot of them aren't ready to come back. They were ready to come back (in April)," Asanovich said.

In this year's schedule, the Jaguars started later and will finish closer to the start of training camp, which allowed for greater recovery and will limit the conditioning that would be lost between the end of the conditioning program and the start of camp.

"It's a smart way to go about an offseason program. It keeps our effort high and facilitates rest and recovery," Asanovich said.

As far as running in the sand is concerned, Asanovich recommends it for condition-conscious fans. In Jacksonville, of course, we have one of the world's best sand pits and it's free for public use.

"Your heart doesn't realize what's elevating it to work hard. All it knows is that it has to adapt to that stress. It's going to make (you) better from a conditioning standpoint. The other added benefit of running in the sand is it doesn't require the pounding on the joints and the orthopedic stress of running on the pavement," Asanovich said.

Plus, you can do it in your bare feet, which makes your toes feel good.

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