Football practice concluded Tuesday morning for Spokane Shock players but their work wasn’t quite done.
Their next appointment was with former Shock standouts Raul Vijil and Kevin McCullough, who assist players with strength and conditioning, not Xs and Os.
“Coming back from a game we usually go into a recovery day, get them moving, get them sweating and firing again to work out the soreness,” Vijil said. “On Tuesday and Wednesday we usually hit them pretty good on lower half (of the body) and upper half.”
Vijil and McCullough speak from experience. They used to train in-season and offseason with APX Strength’s Drew Buchkoski, dating back to 2008. APX signed on as the team’s official strength and conditioning provider in February.
After one recent practice, players hoisted long ropes up and down before heading to another drill.
“It’s not new in the sense of training, it’s been around for a little while, but I think some of the guys were kind of wide-eyed,” said Vijil, now an APX trainer. “It was, ‘What are we doing here?’, and ‘Why are we doing this?’ They’re used to being under a bar and pushing weights, but we’ve added band resistance, ropes, chains and different things to get the body moving and keeping it football specific.”
One of the primary goals is to help players handle the demands of a grueling 18-game regular season.
“We felt they could come in and help us maintain for a long season,” coach Andy Olson said. “We usually do it after practice and they take them through 45 minutes or an hour of stretching or a workout of some kind, whatever they feel is necessary. We leave it up to them.”
Vijil had instant credibility with many of the players as one of the franchise’s all-time greats. His picture is on a championship banner hanging on the wall at team headquarters.
“I love the workouts,” linebacker Terence Moore said. “It’s a big change from last year. I feel better going into the end of the week as far as my body.”
Added receiver Adron Tennell: “Everything he’s teaching us, working out, even warming up before practice and games, it’s a totally new system. We see him up on the wall so we’re going to listen.”
Vijil has remained close to the organization since last playing in 2011.
“I love being around the Shock and the team,” he said. “Sometimes I have to get on these guys, I’m a coach now and I have to earn that respect and sometimes demand it.
“Some guys do call me ‘Coach.’ Some guys like Terrance (Sanders), who I played against and with for a long time, still call me ‘Raul.’ They joke around and call me ‘The Thrill.’”
Last play revisited
Spokane lost Saturday when Cleveland completed a Hail Mary pass off the net in the back of the end zone on the final play.
“We’ve practiced it by walking through it and going over it, but we haven’t practiced it physically with everyone going and crashing because I don’t want to get anyone hurt,” Olson said. “There are guys running into each other and that’s a play where you can roll an ankle or sprain a knee.”
Shock players are instructed to box out and tackle receivers as the ball hits the net. That’s permitted under AFL rules.
“Paul (Stephens) tackled somebody,” Olson said. “For some reason neither Sanders nor (Bryant) Nnabuife decided to tackle at that point. It was a miscommunication and I doubt it’ll happen again.”
Wide receiver Mike Washington, sidelined the last two weeks with a hamstring injury, participated in drills and appears likely to return for Saturday’s road game against Tampa Bay. … QB Erik Meyer had solid stats – 24 of 34 for 252 yards and five TDs, two rushing – but two interceptions sparked Cleveland’s comeback in the third quarter. “Obviously I made a few mis- takes,” he said, “but the one thing we did as an offense after those mistakes is we found a way to fight back.” … Olson on bouncing back: “Today was one of the best practices we’ve had all year. When you’re down, the way you respond shows your true colors. We’ll find out on Saturday.”