“Yeah, they’re not going to like me very much,” joked Redding, a 23-year veteran of NFL weight rooms and a member of the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
Contrary to what you might think, players aren’t going to be cursing Redding’s ancestors because their muscles are sore from pulling freight trains or picking up 500-pound stones. If they’re muttering anything under their breath—provided they’re not huffing and puffing too much to do so—it will be that he isn’t asking them to lift that much weight at all.
Redding, whose Nebraska roots can be detected in his folksy central plains accent, brings a slightly different philosophy to the Packers’ offseason conditioning program. Players will be focusing as much on endurance and explosiveness as building muscle mass and brute strength.
And perhaps as important as any lift, they’ll be required to take Wednesday off to promote recovery, which is a change from previous years. Redding, whose resume includes stops in Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and San Diego, wants McCarthy to see results on the field, not on a chart posted in the weight room.
“I’m not about saying, ’Hey coach, we have nine guys who are power cleaning 500 pounds,’ ” Redding said. “That doesn’t mean anything to me. What’s important to me is that each player, if they participate in this deal, I want them to feel the same the first play of the first game as the last play of the last game.”
McCarthy is typically giddy about his off-season program, which began Monday and runs for 14 weeks. He views it as the start of a new season and an opportunity to get better without adding new players. He’s particularly excited about this off-season because of the addition of defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his staff, and the presence of Redding.
One of the reasons McCarthy fired former strength coach Rock Gullickson was that he didn’t think the atmosphere in the weight room was conducive to maximum results. Gullickson was a stickler about some things he maybe didn’t have to, but the major difference is going to be in personality.
“He’s a Hall of Fame strength coach,” McCarthy said of Redding. “He’s been there from the beginning. He’s been there forever. He’s been through the different kinds of programs in the NFL and I’ve always thought his greatest strengths is his people skills, his ability to create a positive environment.
”Guys are going to come in there and bust their butt and also have fun with it. He’s a natural motivator.“
At the same time Redding is installing his program, Capers and his staff will begin the process of introducing the defensive schemes. The installation of the 3-4 defense will be a long process and Capers will go as slow as it takes to make sure everyone understands it.
But his work will take a backseat to Redding’s until the team begins its organized team activities in May, which is another name for on-field instruction. Capers does not have height and weight parameters for the players in his defense, so his only requirement from Redding is that the players are available for practice.
”I’m not a big guy that you have to be this weight to play this position and that type of thing,“ Capers said. ”I think you get to whatever you think is your best playing weight to enable you to play with the kind of strength, speed and quickness it’s going to take.“
Union rules dictate that players may spend a maximum of four days a week and no more than four hours a day at the facility during off-season workouts. Redding gets the players for the first two hours, and while he’s not into heavy weight lifting, he is into pushing players to the point of exhaustion, similar to how it might be in a game.
Almost all of the lifts are with free weights and the emphasis is ‘’triple extension, ground-based activity,“ which Redding describes as the closest thing to simulating football. Triple extension refers to the simultaneous movement of the ankle, knee and hip, which occurs in every sport but particularly so in football. Ground-based means using free weights with one or more feet on the ground to help build core muscles.
”This is not a bodybuilding program, it’s not a power lifting program, this is a weight training program for football,“ Redding said. ”We’re going to use all those tools to be better football players. How often I go heavy and how much I allow them to do might be different than other philosophies. I’m not about having guys putting something on their back that’s going to break their posture down.“
Redding is very flexible in his approach. He plans to provide the players with a wide variety of movements that they can choose from so that they get to take some ownership in what they’re doing.
Players will work in pairs to help motivate each other and if that doesn’t work, Redding will go with his tried and true method of motivation, which is to remind them the more they’re on the field the better chance they have of securing a better contract.
”There’s a durability aspect and I think I’ve figured it out after all these years of training football players and playing the game myself,“ said Redding, who played college football at Nebraska. ‘’It’s not about how much you bench press; it’s about how often you can play and play and be available and durable.“
Flexibility drills and conditioning will be sandwiched around the weight room work. Once the players are done with Redding, they’re free to visit with their position coaches or watch film.
Previously, the players got Friday off so that they could get out of town and enjoy a three-day weekend, but a key component of Redding’s program is rest. He plans on shutting down the weight room on Wednesdays and weekends.
”If they do anything on Wednesdays, that’s their problem,“ Redding said. ”If you get out of bed on Wednesday, that’s your fault, not mine.
“You have to put your body through recovery as much as you put it through the torture. What happens is your guys get over-trained. You feel like you’ve been talked into training every day. It’s completely unnecessary.
”What they don’t understand is your organs are working overtime to help those periphery muscles to recover. If you don’t give it a chance to recover, your immune system gets involved and you see guys who have continuous pulls, they have tendinitis; we call them ’tub clubbers’ because they’re always in the training room because they’re hurting all the time because they over-trained.“
Rest is mandatory, but so is total commitment.
Redding will know soon whether he has the players’ attention.