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Players need their reset button at times

Posted Jan 4, 2017

It takes a combination of factors to make an elite athlete and that mixture comes in many forms.

Different athlete, different make-up.

Why then would people think that one size fits all when it comes to being ready for a big date or a significant game?

A group of New York Giants players were pictured partying in Florida this week, shortly after discovering that their reward for a first playoff berth in five years is a trip to Green Bay this weekend.

Social and traditional media leaped into action immediately to vent all manner of faux outrage that these players could be so reckless with such a big game on the horizon, proving nothing more than some people’s miscomprehension of what it takes for some athletes to be ready to play.

Most sports at a professional level take a mix of talent, physical fitness and preparation in order to have a chance to win. But they also need putting your mind in the right place, a factor that is particularly relevant to high physical contact sports.

An NFL locker room is a strange place to be, before, during and after a game. There is a lot of behaviour that is not what outsiders would consider normal. Some players are loud, others quietly reflective, but all are inside their own heads in one way or another. Whatever it takes to be in that zone.

It is little surprise that some have to find a way to vent that energy field after a game or else they would carry it round all week. Again, there are different ways of releasing it, some quietly, others not so much.

So when a regular season has been completed successfully, I really don’t have a problem with a few players deciding to have a little fun on their day off. Some of their teammates would have hated the idea because it’s not their style but if that’s what helps these guys to relax, recharge and start the process of getting in that zone again, then so what?

There was some great footage of Oakland quarterback Derek Carr seconds after he broke his leg a couple of weeks ago. He calmly sat on the ground, repeatedly saying “it’s broke, it’s broke, it’s broke”.

With a sudden adrenaline-rush through his bloodstream, Carr appeared to be suffering no pain when he should have been in agony. About a minute later, when the rush must have subsided, he suddenly rolled onto his side and started screaming. He was back to normal.

In much the same way, what you see from players on the field is not real life. The athletic feats some of them perform are extraordinary enough but that swagger and demeanour they carry during the heat of battle is also created deliberately by mind and body for game time.

The problem is that too much of that can lead to a build-up in some players that has to be released in whatever manner suits that individual.

If the Giants lose in Green Bay on Sunday night, it probably won’t be because they took a day off at the beach to escape the winter cold that awaits them at Lambeau Field. It will be because the Packers are on a roll, Aaron Rodgers is on fire, and Lambeau is an inhospitable place to be in January.

But if the Giants win and the likes of Odell Beckham are game-changers, the pressure-release and bonding of that Florida trip may be the difference.

After all, we all need our reset button at times. Why would we think violent athletes who have to be mentally in a zone before smashing their bodies into each other all day would be any different?

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Mark Pellis has been an NFL official for three years, being picked from the college officiating ranks prior to the 2014 season.

Whatever he saw in college probably could not have prepared him for the final game of his third season, when he was the umpire during Miami’s home clash with New England on Sunday.

With tension brewing for quite some time, it finally boiled over when Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount did not take kindly to Ndamukong Suh’s attempt to get back to his feet while lying on Blount following a tackle.

Blount - who is powerfully built to begin with - decided Suh needed a conversation on manners, so he leaped to his feet and grabbed the Dolphins man-mountain by the facemask, a red rag to a bull if ever there was.

Sensing all-out war moments away, the much more slightly-built Pellis did not hesitate in placing himself right in the middle of that heavyweight clash and got knocked around for his trouble.

Suh did what he always did, he got under an opponent’s skin by using what people think are questionable methods.

Blount did what Suh’s victims often do, he reacted, drew a flag and cost his team 15 yards, later becoming the latest NFL player to describe Suh as “dirty”.

They both get paid handsomely to be in those situations but Pellis doesn’t so kudos to him for not even thinking twice before putting his body in a dangerous place without pads or a helmet.

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