RICHMOND | After two hours of practice under the blazing sun, when their bodies are most exhausted. is when Redskins defensive line coach Jim Tomsula chooses to ask for a little something extra. He and his charges head over to a small field next to the main practice field at the team’s training camp facility for some boxing work.
While teammates shed layers of gear and head back inside, the linemen chase Tomsula and strength and conditioning coach Chad Engelhart up and down the field practicing uppercuts and jabs.
“Terrible,” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said, chuckling. “I would say the boxing has been terrible.”
“It’s one of those things that sucks but you’ve got to do it for the concept for what he’s trying to put on us,” Francis went on. “It helps to stay low in our pads, be used to staying low. Our legs are dying when we’re doing the boxing but when you’re low on the field it doesn’t really affect us because we’re used to doing it for so long.”
Francis echoed what Tomsula and other defensive linemen said about doing extra conditioning work after practice. They’re pushed to the point where they feel like they’re going to pass out or throw up, then asked to do more. The next time they feel similarly exhausted, they’re stronger mentally because they know they can push through it.
“No. 1, it’s an aggressive action,” Tomsula said Thursday. “OK? And you need to be aggressive with your hands and your movements. No. 2, your eye speed, seeing [what] things [are] coming from where. No. 3, your own hand speed. No. 4, throwing those uppercuts, those are coming up humps that’ve got to come out of your hips.
As far as the technical benefits, defensive lineman Ziggy Hood said that, even in a 3-4 defense, Tomsula has been stressing drills using ladders or other tools that force players to keep a narrow base and to move without picking their feet up high. Boxing has similar effects.
“In boxing you’ve always got to be in a balanced position,” Tomsula said. “And the last thing that you get is when you go three rounds in three minutes you get some conditioning and it’s in a competitive, fun way.”
“You’ll have to ask Coach Tomsula if you have about an hour of interview time,” coach Jay Gruden joked. “If you can get him out here, he’ll talk about boxing.
“I was all for it. They brought it to my attention and said it would be good for them — good for their stamina, good for using their legs and coming out with their hips. A lot of the boxing moves are very similar for what you have to use as a football player and the players really enjoy it. We did it in the OTAs and the group did a great job teaching them, and I think they had fun with it. Really it’s a lot of the same movements and like I said, good for their conditioning and good for their strength.”
The boxing has apparently paid off. Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said that he has noticed the difference in the defensive linemen he spends his afternoons blocking.
“I mean, you can just tell Coach Tomsula has put his mark on all the guys. [They’re] so much more active with their hands and they’re getting off the ball, they’re pressing the point,” Williams said. “They’re very strong. He’s teaching them how to use your momentum against you. A lot of things he taught Justin Smith back in San Fran, a lot of things he did well, it’s kind of shedding on the defensive line over here.”
Often players who do extra conditioning work will venture over to some corner of the field with a trainer. Tomsula doesn’t have to pull on the boxing pads and absorb blows from Jonathan Allen or Phil Taylor himself. Staying away from the action, though, isn’t Tomsula’s style and if the trainers are going to do it, so will he.
“I feel like I better go get beat up a little bit with them,” Tomsula said.
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