A new crop of players awaits the start of their NFL careers with the 2018 NFL Draft starting on Thursday. The prospects have spent countless hours preparing themselves as much as possible, but they are about to learn much more.
We ask our NFL.com analysts to reflect on their own football careers, asking them the following question: What did they do? Do you know later in your career that you would like to be a rookie?
There is a reason why Peyton Manning was always one step ahead
The film studio is everything. Many players get carried away by athletics and physical attributes at the beginning of their careers, just as I did in the second year, but I realized that my athletics was not enough in my third year. I learned how to study the tape and apply that to my Jeff Graham game. And I kept working on this throughout my career, learning more in my tenth season of the NFL with Marty Schottenheimer, who taught me that the smallest detail could be the biggest difference in the game.
When physical gifts disappear, film study is the only way a veteran can keep up with younger players. Ray Lewis, who played 17 seasons in the league, said it at the end of his career: "Kids like us slow down the game." Although players will inevitably lose a step as they get older, knowing their opponent's tendencies allows them to get to the ball faster because they are reacting without thinking. Those small fractions of time saved on each play are added on the day of the game.
The NFL is not just about being a physicist
My perception when I first came to the league was that I needed to gain weight to match the physicality and size of the NFL players. I thought that it was about being able to withstand strong and hard blows. But I learned in my second and third season that I did not need to be like that to play with my style. I just needed to be quick and fit. Then, in my third or fourth year, I changed my diet by hiring a chef to prepare dinner every night. I really feel that this change allowed me to have some of my best years in the field.
Making football the top priority is harder than it seems
I wish I had made football the top priority. I dedicated all my efforts to be the best soccer player and I worried about the other things later. Extra material is a distraction, including relationships that are not designed to make you the best person and soccer player. Your football years are a small moment in your life and it takes a lot of focus to be great.
If I could go back, I would set bigger goals as a player to become one of those greats of all time. I would try to find people to help me get there, including coaches, coaches and support staff, to analyze everything and see how far my career could go.
Everything related to health could have changed my football career and my life after
The whole idea of health was strange to me when I look back. When entering the league, health was to work and stay in shape. Some of the things we did in training back then would not even be considered today. I wonder, if it's based on performance or longevity, if I had treated my body in the same way with food as with exercise, mentality and preparation, what that would have meant while I was playing, or even now. Retirement?
Weekly and daily meetings is where the game is won
I wish I had paid more attention to the daily meetings from the first moment. Coaches spend countless hours, day and night, preparing game plans to present players, and there are many players who do not take these meetings seriously, especially if the coach is not talking directly to you. In fact, this is when many players nap.
These meetings focus on something different every day. For example, Monday could be first and second plays, Tuesday is the third chance, Wednesday is the red zone and Thursday is short, and so on. They feel tedious because we, as players, have learned the playbook, but there are many other things that I could have learned that would have helped me later in my career.
Staying healthy requires a lot more than eating right
I wish I had known the right way to take care of my body from the beginning. It was not until my fourth season that I really dedicated my time, energy and money to doing what was best for my body. If I had learned what I know now about maintaining health, I could have had a longer career.