Demorrio DeGeare has played inside linebacker for Shmoopville’s NFL team for his entire eight-year career (go fighting Students!). It’s Wednesday morning before Week 4 of the NFL season, and he wakes up promptly at 6 a.m. By 6:15, he has successfully gotten out of the bed and stood upright—between the turf toe that’s been bothering him since training camp, the ankle that someone stepped on at the bottom of the pile last Sunday, and the hip that never stops hurting, it usually takes him about fifteen minutes to get up in the morning, so today’s already off to a surprisingly strong start. After showering, dressing, and eating a light breakfast of pancakes, sausage, coffee, an omelet with a little bit of everything in the fridge, a protein shake, juice, and coffee, he gets to the team’s practice facility by 8 a.m.
His first stop is the trainers’ room, so he can soak in the whirlpool for a while, and then get his ankle wrapped. The trainer tells him that the ankle is sprained, but fortunately it’s not a high ankle sprain, so he should heal in a week or two rather than a month or two. At any rate, the injury isn’t bad enough to stop him from practicing today or playing on Sunday.
The first meeting of the day is the special teams’ meeting at 8:30, followed by the full team meeting at 9. On Wednesdays, these meetings are about getting an overview of what the team wants to do on game day (other than win, of course), what the coaches expect the week’s opponent to do, and what the rest of the practice week will entail. Demorrio only fills in on special teams occasionally, and he’s a veteran, so he can get away with letting his mind wander during the meeting to what his defensive assignments will probably be and the kinds of workouts and treatments he’ll need to get his body (and especially his ankle) ready for Sunday.
The defensive team meeting starts at 9:30 and lasts for three painful hours. The coach goes over every package he expects the other team to use on first- and second-down, and every defensive scheme that he wants to use to counter each package. Demorrio has different assignments in every scheme, depending on the down, the offensive formation, and the game situation. About half of the assignments are new (that is, they were not part of last week’s scheme), and he has to have a firm grasp on all of them by tomorrow morning at the latest. At 12:30, the defense hits the practice field for a quick walkthrough (jog-through, really) of the coach’s schemes. After lunch, which never involves enough time or enough spareribs, Demorrio goes to yet another defensive meeting, this time to watch the tape of the morning’s walkthrough and continue learning the new schemes. At about 2 in the afternoon, everyone goes back to the practice field to work against live competition. The defense works against the practice squad which consists of backup players or raw rookies who try to imitate the formations and schemes that the weekend’s opponent will use. Practice squad players are sometimes “called up” to the main roster, if the team has an uncommon number of injuries, but this early in the season everyone is still in relatively good health.
Practice is scheduled for 90 minutes, but actually lasts two hours because the coaches are not happy with the speed at which Demorrio and the other defenders are picking up the new schemes. Contact is supposed to be limited in mid-season practices, especially this early in the week, but stress and frustration starts to affect everyone. However, there’s just barely enough time to get in a few stress-relieving sets in the weight room, shower, and get dressed before the final meeting of the day. The defense still has to get through another two hours of watching film of the afternoon practice, their previous games, and their opponents’ games, all while being scolded publicly for every mistake. After a ten-hour day at the facility, Demorrio starts the drive home. Some of the rookies invite him out to get dinner and a couple of drinks, but as an eight-year veteran, Demorrio needs to get home, see his family, put ice on every ache and pain, and go to bed early. He’s twenty-nine, and that’s too old to go out partying without it affecting Thursday’s practice.
To learn more about the typical day for a player in any other professional football league, see our articles on any other career, and then imagine playing football in your spare time.