Inside Voices: Deeper Into the Sports Science

ryans_400_111113The sleep monitor attached to the player’s wrist begins to gently vibrate when it’s time to wake up.

Instead of a screeching alarm clock that startles you out of your sleep, the device the Eagles wear draws you to consciousness slowly as the vibrations gradually increase.

During the night, the device records when you fell asleep, how well you slept and how many times you woke up during the night. This draws the competitive side out of these athletes. They want to improve those numbers, so they work on it. Maybe they’ll go to bed a half-hour earlier, maybe they’ll alter their night-time routine.


When Najee Goode -- the Eagles' reserve linebacker and special teams player -- first moved into his new place, his numbers were terrible. He lives by a train, so his sleep reports weren't so great early on as he got accustomed to the frequent rattling outside. Now it's better. He would wake up maybe 10, 12 times during the night. Got it down to eight. Now it's steadily at five or so.

The players' sleep reports go right into a computer system that can be accessed by sports science coordinator Shaun Huls. That's just the beginning of the data that the former Navy Seal trainer collects on a regular basis. At the beginning of each day, the players take a wellness questionnaire on their iPads that asks about body soreness and things of that nature.

"We put that into the computer at the beginning of the day every day, and [assistant strength coach] Keith [Gray0], Shaun and [strength and conditioning coach] Josh [Hingst], they'll come over right away and say, 'Alright, you need to do this for today, you need to do that.' And by Thursday, Friday you're all well recovered so you're ready to run on Sunday."

They collect intel gathered from the sensors that the players wear on the field which measure things like agility, force and acceleration. They chart their performance in the weight room. Part of Huls' job is to make sense of the information that has been gathered and then structure an individualized plan of attack for that day, that week, etc.

"He's the guy that's really like the mathematician, kinda puts all the numbers into words as far as everything we have to do as far as our training, how we're feeling, stuff like that," said Goode. "Shaun can interpret our body soreness and help us out as we go towards Sunday."

Added DeMeco Ryans: "Shaun just does a good job of staying on top of guys, not letting it drift off. He doesn't go a couple days without asking guys, 'What's going on? What are you doing for recovery? How are you feeling?' That's one advantage we have, having a sharp guy like Shaun, and Josh in the weight room, to help us individually as players.

"It's different, and this is the best I've felt in my career. I feel like that's a credit to those guys and what they're doing."

The steps needed to quicken the recovery process aren't always easy.

Goode joked that his first instinct was to find someone to fight when he saw the four-inch needle get pulled out. Blood had been drawn from his arm and put through a process called PRP [platelet-rich plasma], in which platelets that assist in healing are separated from the rest of the blood cells. The high concentrate of platelets are then injected into the injured area in the name of speeding up recovery.

Jay Cutler used PRP this year after tearing his groin muscle. Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward turned to PRP to help get them healed and ready for the Super Bowl in 2009.

In Goode's case, that needle was headed straight for his hamstring.

"It was probably the worst shot I ever had in my life," he said, "but right after I got it done that night it felt 10 times better. And it wasn't nothing crazy, it wasn't nothing illegal, it wasn't nothing special, it was just something simple that they did.

"It immediately did the job because when I came back in on a Wednesday I was able to jog, I was able to push, I was able to run a little bit more and I'm able to run a little bit more now. It was crazy."

Allen, Cooper and free agency

Nate Allen is in the final year of his rookie contract. While that may not have registered on the concern-meter heading into the season, it's noteworthy now that the safety is playing some good football. We caught up with the former second-round pick to see how he's looking at the situation.

"It would be good to stay here because, you know, for some stability, and I like it here, like the team, like the coaching staff," said Allen. "Some guys look at it as a stressful time but it's interesting [to me], it's going to be interesting to see what happens. It's rare that somebody stays somewhere their whole career, so we'll see what happens, man."

Allen is finally starting to resemble the player the Eagles envisioned when they selected him with the 37th overall pick in 2010. Now that things appear to be coming together for the 26-year old, there is logic in trying to hold onto him.

The Eagles in recent years have typically avoided doing deals in-season. As far as Allen knows, there haven't been any substantive talks yet.

"If anything is being said, it's to my agent. I haven't heard anything, and don't listen for it," said Allen.

Riley Cooper is also scheduled to become a free agent.

"I've thought about it, and I know it's there," said Cooper, "but it's something you can't control so why get your mind so caught up in it where it starts affecting your play?"

Cooper's situation is unique because of the incident this past offseason. What would the dynamic be like if he was among players who didn't know him? How desirable would it be to go to a new team and try and earn players' trust all over again? Plus, Cooper has found success under Kelly. He's probably in no hurry to separate himself from this offense.

"I want to stay here. I like it here. I'm comfortable here," said Cooper. "I've been here four years. Yeah, this is where I want to be."

The Eagles will also have to make decisions on Jeremy Maclin and Michael Vick.

Cedric Thornton is another name that comes up, seeing as his three-year deal is set to expire. Nothing is happening on the Thornton contract front at the moment, we're told. It's important to remember that there are two more years that are team-controlled when it comes to the defensive lineman. Players with three accrued seasons can become restricted free agents once their deal expires, and they can be unrestricted after four. An accrued season is obtained by spending six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists. Thornton did not meet those requirements his rookie season, meaning he only has two accrued seasons under his belt.

As for Nick Foles, any thoughts of locking him up to a big deal have to be put on hold. The CBA prevents any drafted player from renegotiating his contract until after his third season. Foles is in his second year.

Peters in the middle

On gameday, the Eagles form a huddle around the 50-yard line following warm-ups and before heading inside for the final time. This is the shot you might see on television, where one of the leaders stands in the middle of the circle and fires the group up with a few choice words. For the better part of two seasons, that job has fallen to Ryans and Vick, who would alternate week-to-week.

Since Foles took over as the starter, Jason Peters has been working into the rotation.

Given how quiet he is, at least around reporters, you wouldn't think that would necessarily be a role he craved. But he's been a leader for this team on several different levels, according to his teammates.

"Jason does a really good job of sitting back and watching you and whenever he sees things that you need to improve on, he'll speak up," said rookie tackle Lane Johnson. "I think he speaks up at all the appropriate times, and really helps me moving towards game day -- what to watch for and things to be aware of.

"He gets riled up on gameday, especially right before we go in. He's a guy that tries to get us all amped up and going."

What's the message?

"Pretty much, let's get after their [bleep]," said Johnson. "Full-throttle kind of deal."

  • furiousxgeorge

    Huh, I always assumed they were just trusting the guys to get the recommended sleep. Interesting to learn they monitor it.

    • anon

      They know who is out doing the late night rendezvous thing.

      • cliff henny

        imagine shady’s charts? hals ‘ummm, lesean, your blood pressure spiked at 9, 10, 12, 2, 4, and 5′…shady ‘yeah, slow night’

        • chuck

          good thing adrian peterson isn’t an iggle. imagine his readings? off the charts just from his 12 kids calling him.

    • jabostick

      I think it is funny too that, being competitive athletes, they’ve turned into its own little sport. It’s clever on Shaun and Co’s part but I think it also speaks well of the locker room culture

  • cliff henny

    Goode, what?! you need to open checkbook up. i lived right on tracks after graduating from college, right in mount airy. had maybe 500 in checking account and waiting tables at tgif’s…not 600k and playing pro ball

    • Greg Rosen

      there are trains in expensive neighborhoods too. I like the background noise. Although I’ve never lived more than a couple blocks off the tracks.

    • nicksaenz1

      Thought the same thing. Wonder what part of the city he’s living in. Wonder if it’s in NoLibs or Fishtown by the El.

      • chuck

        yes, nick, he lives on front street under the EL.

    • Philip Soloninka

      Or he’s doing the smart thing with his money :)

    • GEAGLE

      He is talking about the subway…I know where Goode lives, he lives on broad n Washington.

      • cliff henny

        whew, ok. mean i literally had freight train baseball throw from window, first night it rattled me out of bed. had no idea, was just a country boy from lancaster, cows, roosters and friday night drunk amish boys were my biggest worries. though, if the players read these comment sections, a, good i live 750 ms away and b, … Goode, you’ve been amply warned, Johnny G is standing outside you house with binoculars

        • GEAGLE

          Hahahahaha I don’t care about Goode…I did try to hook up with FOles sister when he first moved here :)…she didn’t respond

          • cliff henny

            should, some on her say he’s better than kendricks.

          • GEAGLE

            Some are foolish then lol….breakdown last weeks film and Kendrick had an impressive day for his first game back. Kendrick is legit, this time next year no one will be mentioning Wagner,Lavonte or vontaze. He just needs some continuity. have you guys noticed what our coaches turner turned Nate into? People don’t even remember how bad we used to be at tackling…I GUARENTEE each and every one of you that coach minter will turn Kendricks into a FORCE and that he will arrive within the next 365 days…when we are gearing up for a December run next year, you will see a monster in Kendricks. I have NO DOUBTS on him.
            I tried to Facebook FOles sister, but she wasn’t having it

          • The 46

            How come they didn’t turn Kendrick’s around this year like everyone else on the defense … Kid has a bad attitude…. Uber talented but his head ain’t right not his form. That’s how talented player bust out or never reach potential like you have said before.

  • Bdawkbdawk

    Thank gosh the players seem to be buying in. Lawrence Taylor would have had his wrist device lighting up like a pinball machine.

  • Eagle in VT

    Kinda love hearing about the sports science stuff. But at the same time, I kind of don’t want to talk about it either…

    • theycallmerob

      1st rule of sports science

      • Brian

        That would be a great stadium sign for Sunday’s game. Any t-shirt makers out there?

  • theycallmerob

    unrelated, but figured I’d share for those who haven’t seen/read. Good write-up on the performance of our Cox

    http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/84715/all-22-all-stars-fletcher-cox-the-eagles-budding-superstar

    • Brian

      said Ron Jeremy, to John Holmes.

      • theycallmerob

        he’s been playing real big recently. and stamina seems to be up.
        Phletcher Does Philadelphia

        • Brian

          The front seven are flying to the ball for four quarters, and their on the field more than most defenses.

        • GEAGLE

          Fletcher “the penetrator” cox….we made this nickname official on blitz

    • nicksaenz1

      Good read. Thanks.

  • G_WallyHunter

    This article should be considered Classified, and now it can be seen by everyone, that’s just great

    • ohitsdom

      The REDACTED attached to the player’s REDACTED begins to gently vibrate when it’s time to REDACTED.

      • Chris

        it sounds so dirty

  • Guest

    Is Chip Kelly training a football team or creating Universal Soliders?

    • Kevin

      Yes.

  • ochospantalones

    Is Chip Kelly coaching a football team or creating Universal Soldiers?

  • BrickSquadMonopoly

    I want to believe Chip Kelly when he calls Thornton our defensive MVP but with how low he is on the pass rusher rankings I find it hard to believe his run stopping and “gap responsibility” is so great to overrule that.

    • CrackSammich

      1. Pass rushing is only part of the job.
      2. The pass rushing ratings are an amateur rating made up by the writers on this site so that you can quantify/approximate the work on the field. Don’t read into it as gospel.

  • Tom W

    Fascinating stuff. Like Ryans and Cole and Celek have said, its really having a profound affect on the older players health and recovery. Doesn’t sound like a lotta guys have nagging injuries they are playing though either. And Cole isn’t wearing down. I wonder what effect it will have on the rookies and preventing them from hitting the “rookie wall.” Looks like Ertz and Logan and Johnson are hitting their stride … will have to check in on them in a couple weeks.

    I have read where there are certain exercises that can be utilized to help a young qb strengthen his arm … I wonder if we are using those for Foles and barkley .. or if anything can be down to strengthen Foles legs and hammies and quads and calves to make him a bit faster … I seem to remember Adam Archuletta and the trainer his parents paid 50k a year to turn him into a div 1 prospect then a nfl first rounder turned his scrawny ass into a beast running a 4.5 50 …. that was before the days of heavy testing though so who knows….

    Any chance of finding out if the eagles utilize the “ice” or “cold freeze” method of recovery post-workout … I heard about the massages and ice but I read Stanford and the Niners utilize this cold glove machine that the player wears to pass cold sparks through the hands nerves that reach all the parts of the body and when players worked out after utilizing the glove they were increasingly stronger …

    Any articles out there on the eagles weightlifting regimen?

    • nicksaenz1

      Was that you replying to that idiot on the grantland article about Fletcher Cox?

      • theycallmerob

        …Yale my ass

        nice touch

        • nicksaenz1

          I loved that. I’d take credit for it if I were Tom. That kid deserved it. The kid who he was replying to was an idiot.

      • Tom w

        I plead the 5th. “Hey will, wanna go up to Harvard and beat up some smart kids.” Gwh

    • chuck

      tl;dr

  • Media Mike

    Can somebody put a sleep monitor on Jameis Winston so he can actually get prosecuted the next time he commits a violent felony? That would be the next logical step in sports science.

    • anon

      Unclear if it was violent or a felony.

    • EaglePete

      no signs of force or trauma in investigation. At least that much was evident if you read up on it. Anyone can guess the rest.

      • Media Mike

        No trauma needed when the victim is too drunk to resist. GUILTY!

  • ochospantalones

    I find all of this sports science stuff interesting, and the Eagles have had an impressively low number of injuries post-training camp (not sure what sports science can do to prevent guys blowing out their knees in the summer). But I’m not sure we can really say it’s been vindicated until we’ve seen it in practice longer. Every year, some teams will end up with a below average number of injuries, maybe this just happens to be the Eagles year.

    • anon

      Not just injuries but how fresh our guys are at the end of the season. Are we maintaining the same level of freshness that we had at the beginning of the year. Also monitoring sleep means we don’t have guys out late at night getting drunk and driving home, etc.

      • Brennan Hildebrandt

        Considering that they got off to a slow start in the beginning of the season and are playing much better you would think they are still really fresh. But does the quality of the teams have something to do with ?

      • ochospantalones

        I just don’t know how we’re supposed to evaluate “freshness”. The players say nice things about the coach and training staff, but they’re on a winning streak and possibly going to the playoffs, so they would, wouldn’t they? Andy Reid’s teams were generally better late in the season too, and he had a completely different philosophy (Taco Tuesdays, more tackling in camp than any other team). So I’m not saying this is all B.S., I think it probably is helping, but I just don’t think there is enough evidence to totally declare the process vindicated.

  • GEAGLE

    So basically we have a team full of 53 Ivan Drago’s?

    • knighn

      Even better: they’re like some sort of Drago / Rocky combo! They can’t represent Philly without being at least part Rocky!

      • Johnny Domino

        “I must break myself.”

    • theycallmerob

      at this point, Chung is. He’s like a bizarro Bernard Pollard, sniping his own teammates instead of Pats players.

      • Marilyn Monbroe

        should get this on bill simmons radar

      • GEAGLE

        It’s borderline BLASEPHMY to use my beloved pollard in a same sentence with Kurt Coleman sr.

  • anon

    Will sports science mean that we can start taking dudes in their 30s and elongating their careers?

  • anon

    Watching the Jags game. Gotta commend gus bradley for what he’s done with that team. Granted they’ve won against crappy teams, but to start 0-8 and not have your team fall apart and get them to win some games at the end of the year, especially given that roster is pretty great. I think we’d be a different team if he was here, but i think we’d be a good team.

  • chuck

    what happens when they wake up on top of their wives/girlfriends, like i do at 3:00 a.m., having sex? what does the bracelet show then?

  • ICDogg

    As far as sleeping near a train: get an air cleaner which not only cleans the air (which is also a good thing) but makes white noise that is easy to sleep through, and keeps other noises from disturbing you.

  • DEBO 215

    Is there any coincidence that this team has in large part stayed healthy all year? I don’t think so. I give Chip a ton of credit for this. Complete culture change.