During training camp, the Philadelphia Eagles‘ lack of hitting and practice field reps raised the eyebrows of local sports reporters. Then the media learned that players were drinking personalized smoothies, spending additional time in yoga-like stretching and meditation programs, and sleeping longer hours to ensure a maximum amount of REM time.
Was Chip Kelly just too soft for the NFL?
After fourteen grueling weeks, we have learned that there is hard science behind his soft practices. Despite a highly secretive disposition going back to mini camp, details about Chip Kelly’s groundbreaking Sports Science program have surfaced throughout the season, and the results have been extraordinary.
The first indication that Kelly would be implementing a unique approach to player performance assessment and body maintenance came when the Eagles became the first NFL franchise to hire a Sports Science Coordinator in Shaun Huls. His resume includes four years as a student of the famed Husker Power strength and conditioning program at the University of Nebraska, a four-year stint as Performance Coach for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group 2, and high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. Shaun’s approach to training includes a focus on free weights and plyometric body explosion, and his philosophy on nutrition emphasizes vegetables over meats and gluten-based foods.
The Eagles have paired their non-traditional approach to strength, conditioning and nutrition with unprecedented technology investments to more accurately monitor, measure, and analyze the physiological impact that playing football has on the human body. With NFL teams investing hundreds of millions on their players, the logical next step is dedicating the necessary time and resources to develop an innovative approach to maintaining player health and wellness while optimizing on-field performance.
Eagles players wear heart monitors during practice to collect data on body excursion. Between their shoulder blades, they wear OptimEye devices that utilize GPS, magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope components to track acceleration, agility, and endurance throughout practice and exercise routines. The Sports Science program is uniquely advantageous to the Eagles, because Chip Kelly’s up-tempo system requires even more from the human body than the average NFL scheme. This data-driven approach is designed to prevent the overworking and overtraining that often causes soft-tissue injuries.
However, the results were not immediately positive as a key member of the offense, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, tore his ACL in late July. But as the season has worn on, many other NFL teams have been ravaged by injuries while the Eagles have emerged as the healthiest team in the league.
It is now apparent that Chip Kelly’s secret program is contributing to the Eagles’ remarkable player health this season. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is one example of the program’s success. He had not played all sixteen games since his rookie year. In 2013, however, he has only appeared on one weekly injury report. Safety Nate Allen recently remarked that his body is not nearly as beat up, and he is actually feeling better with each passing week.
The Eagles’ cutting-edge Sports Science system has translated into steadily improved on-field performance as the team currently rides a five-game winning streak. As the season grinds on, the team’s technological and physiological innovations will continue to create significant competitive advantages.