Interesting look at how much preparation goes into being an NFL quarterback, from The Athletic.

Quarterback John Wolford is in his fourth season with the Rams, with whom he has been the backup to Jared Goff (2020) and Matthew Stafford (2021-22). Wolford also runs a “live” scout team for the Rams, which means he runs a live offense against the Rams’ first-team defense in practices, and has done so since 2020. While starting at quarterback for Wake Forest from 2014 to 2017, he threw for 8,794 yards (fourth most in school history) and 59 touchdowns (third) while also running for 1,120 yards and 19 TDs.

https://d190e748530138c764465a7c12b90cdf.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In this op-ed, Wolford shares his unique insight into what it’s like to be an NFLquarterback on one of the busiest days of the practice week.

It’s not a Wednesday unless you’re stressed the f— out.

Wednesdays in the NFL are the first day of mandatory meetings and practice for an upcoming opponent. As a quarterback, this entails processing and retaining copious amounts of information in a finite period of time, all while throwing everything you knew about last week’s opponent out the window.

New defense, new coverages, new players, new strategy, new plays, etc.

I’m often asked by friends and family: “What do you do all day?”

This is what a Wednesday is actually like for a quarterback in the NFL (I plan to write about Thursday through Tuesday in future posts).

First, a few notes to level set before I begin:

1. A good amount of film study is done Monday and Tuesday in preparation for the week of work. By Wednesday, we are walking into the building with a good understanding of our opponent.

2. On Wednesday, most teams focus on “normal down-and-distance” preparation, which is first and second down (minus situational football — red zone, two-minute, etc.).

3. “(Team)” in the screengrabs of my schedule means mandatory meeting/practice. If not parenthesized with “(Team),” then I am personally scheduling that activity.

4. I timebox my day, which I swear by after reading “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal. I highly recommend this strategy for productivity.

5. This schedule should serve as a good proxy, but each quarterback has his own specific method. Common tenets shared among NFL quarterbacks are extra film study and body maintenance.

6. All terminology has been substituted to keep the Rams’ information private. I would like to keep my job.

Morning

Here’s a look at my morning schedule:

5:45-6:15 a.m.

Play calls on the drive in: This particular week, the coaches forwarded the normal down-and-distance play calls Tuesday night (oftentimes we do not get these until Wednesday morning). My drive to work takes 25 minutes — the majority of that time I’m listening to voice memos of the new play calls that I record the previous night. These recordings are two to five minutes in length and generally include priority runs, play-action and dropback passes. Here is an example play call to demonstrate how complex these can get:

“Lense to Deuce Rt Claw Z Short Lander Z Strong X Revo Z Lockback (can) 2 Jet Z-Monday Astro Read Alert Money Deacon Flow F Panama On the Omaha”

I hear the call, pause the recording, envision the play in my head with the corresponding “can” criteria (I will explain later), call it as if I am in the huddle and think through what defensive looks I should anticipate. I find this is a good way to stay productive in the car and steal some reps.

6:15-7:30 a.m.

Review notes and film study: My notes at this point of the week revolve around coverage tendencies for normal down and distance (first and second downs). Secondarily, my notes will cover the opponent’s personnel — who are its corners, linebackers, defensive linemen, etc. It is vital to have a good understanding of how your opponent wants to defend you and which players we want to attack and avoid. For example, if I’m playing the Rams, I would triple-team Aaron Donald.

Any film study in this block typically includes normal down-and-distance cutups.

7:30-8 a.m.

T-spine mobility, ankle stability and breathing exercises: Thoracic spine (T-spine) mobility is vital for throwers of any sport, and in a nutshell, more T-spine mobility equals more torque in a throwing motion (watch Patrick Mahomes). Ankle stability decreases my risk for sprains but also ensures my base in the pocket is strong. “The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick McKeown sold me on the benefits of breathing properly, so I complete one of his recommended exercises every morning. Typically, I do that exercise outside to get sunlight on my eyes (Stanford neuroscientist Andrew Huberman convinced me of the benefits of morning sun in one of his podcasts).

8-8:45 a.m.

QB meeting: Run game and play-action pass. This is a meeting with all of the quarterbacks — myself, Stafford and Bryce Perkins — the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator to discuss the initial run and play-action pass plays for our opponent.

More times than not, both run and play-action pass plays have their own specific “can” accompanying them. A “can” or “kill” is essentially an alert to audible the play. Teams often call two plays in the huddle, and quarterbacks alert the offense to audible to the second play by yelling “can can” or “kill kill.”

For example: We break the huddle after calling two plays; the first is a toss sweep, and the second is a zone read. If the defense lines up in an “X” look, which is bad to run toss sweep against, we “can” or “kill” the play to the zone read.

In this meeting, we talk through anticipated defensive looks for these plays and when we want to audible (can) them. It should be noted that I am intentionally simplifying in that example. When you rattle off a long play call with a complicated “can,” break the huddle, diagnose the defense and audible the play, you feel like Alan from “The Hangover” when he’s counting cards. Your mind is absolutely spinning, but when you get it right and hit blackjack (throw a 60-yard bomb), it’s incredibly exhilarating.

https://giphy.com/embed/l3fZLMbuCOqJ82gec

8:45-9:45 a.m.

Lift. Music is bumping in the weight room, with 315-pound giants moving the barbells like they’re toothpicks. But if you observe the quarterback lifts, you would notice that we are on a different rhythm. While we still move weight, our lifts are completely different from every other position. As rotational athletes, quarterbacks require a training plan that is based on the biomechanical patterns and unique force demands of a thrower. Maxing out with 350 pounds on the barbell bench press and popping a blood vessel in my eye does not translate to throwing the football better. On the field, I have to run fast, cut hard and, most importantly, throw. This lift works to optimize those functions. Also, our in-season lifts are slightly less voluminous than offseason lifts (true of every position), and each exercise works to ensure that I maintain strength and power without inducing too much fatigue.

9:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Offensive meetings: Offensive coordinator Liam Coen or Sean McVay runs these meetings with all skill position players (QBs, RBs, WRs) present for the entirety of the meeting (the O-line also comes in from time to time).

The focus of these meetings is twofold:

1. Break down opposing defensive tendencies on normal down and distance.

2. Discuss corresponding play-action, dropback and screen passes to attack those tendencies.

New plays are installed, tweaks are made to existing plays and film is always displayed showing how we anticipate the opponent will defend us. A substantial amount of information and strategy is communicated in this meeting, and my brain is typically fried walking out the door.

Afternoon and evening

Here’s my schedule:

12:25-1:15 p.m.

Walk-through: This occurs on the practice field with the first-team offense walking through the normal down-and-distance play calls against the scout-team defense. The scout-team defense does its best to mimic the opponent to give us a realistic look. I receive the play calls in my helmet, recite them to myself and then emulate Stafford’s movements as if I were taking the rep.

1:15-2 p.m.

Lunch/review practice script: The lunch spread is always healthy, with the team cafeteria changing the menu daily. I’m typically not hungry, but I force myself to wolf down a protein and some rice or a banana so I have energy through practice. I subsequently find an empty meeting room to review the practice plan. At this point in the day, the practice plays are scheduled for us, and I will review those play calls and make sure I know all the “can” criteria and the intent of each play.

2-2:30 p.m.

Pre-throw routine: This is a routine that preps and primes all the body tissues associated with throwing. The purpose of having a detailed pre-throw routine is to:

1. Induce blood flow through the body and rotator cuff to prepare for high-velocity throwing.

2. Ensure my throwing motion is properly sequenced.

3. Ramp up my nervous system to feel fresh on the practice field.

2:30-4:15 p.m.

Practice: I won’t explain every segment of practice, but at a high level, I am running the scout-team offense against the first-team defense. When the first-team offense is up, I am behind the play taking mental reps.

4:15-4:45 p.m.

Post-throw routine plus cupping: I have a specific post-throw routine designed to focus on flushing the tissue and restabilizing the joints associated with throwing after practice. I subsequently go to the training room to receive shoulder and back cupping treatment while I guzzle down a protein smoothie.

4:45-6 p.m.

Third-down film study: I head back to the quarterback meeting room, quickly buzz through practice and turn my attention to third downs (third-down plan is installed Thursday). I watch film cutups of our opponent sectioned into third-and-short, third-and-medium and third-and-long. For example, most teams play more man-to-man coverage in the third-and-short window because they want to contest every throw. Every team is different though, and this is when I dive into the film to understand the tendencies of our next opponent.

Night

Here’s how my night shapes up:

6-7 p.m.

Dinner, review play calls: I am now driving to grab food and head home. I will flip on the voice memo that I listened to in the morning (I add to the memo throughout the day as plays are tweaked). If feeling masochistic, I will increase the audio’s speed and skip any silence to increase the difficulty. Dinner is salmon, a veggie and rice or pasta from the hot bar at Erewhon. I am devouring it all right when I walk in the door.

7-7:45 p.m.

Isometric arm care: I am tired at this point in the day, but if it’s on my schedule, then I do it. For these 45 minutes, I complete a block of exercises that are isometric in nature and designed to ensure my arm is peaking on Sundays. The focus of my arm-care plan changes slightly based on the weekly schedule, but for the sake of this post, I essentially have three arm-care day types (eccentric/HSR, isometric or dynamic). My isometric day is usually Wednesday, when I return to throwing in practice. I will cover these different types of arm care and their benefits to throwers another day.

7:45-9 p.m.

Downtime: I do my best to wind down an hour before going to bed. This typically entails dim lighting and throwing my blue-light-blocking glasses on (Huberman hack again).

More often than not, I read a book (most recently “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz and “31 Days with a Navy Seal” by Jesse Itzler) or catch up on a “House of the Dragon” episode. I will throw on compression boots if my legs are sore. Lights out around 9 p.m. if all goes to plan, as I aim to get 8 1/2 hours of sleep. Matthew Walker’s book, “Why We Sleep,” sold me on this, and with the physical and mental demands of a “stressed the f— out” Wednesday, I am knocked out 30 seconds after turning off the lights.