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Should Ryan Mathews Stop Lifting Weights?

Could Ryan Mathews be a more successful running back in he changed his workout routine? Maybe.

Harry How

I don't often say things with no statistical backing at all, so stay with me on this one....

Ryan Mathews doesn't look like a Running Back to me anymore.

Story #1:

I remember going to Chargers Park and standing on the sidelines behind Peter King during one of Mathews' first practices as an NFL player. I overheard King talking to someone else, who was asking him what he thought of the San Diego Chargers' first round draft pick. Peter's response was something to the effect of "I've never seen a rookie walk in with an NFL body before I saw him. That's impressive."

What Peter meant is that most college athletes don't follow strict diet and workout regimes, so they often come into the league needing to add bulk and muscle to their wiry frame. Upon seeing Mathews on the field for the first time, most analysts (myself included) gawked at the side of his legs and arms. He may have been the most muscular player on the entire team, and that included Shawne Merriman.

Story #2:

During Chargers Training Camp in 2009, Merriman was returning from a lost season. He showed up with muscles on his muscles and looked like he could win a bodybuilding competition. Early in the season, he struggled with nagging injuries. Late in the season, he struggled to be effective.

At some point during the season, I tweeted out something from the @BFTB_Chargers account to him, asking if he thought the added bulk had hurt his flexibility and that had limited him as a pass-rusher. I didn't expect an answer, I was more doing it as a way to voice an opinion I had already been voicing all season, and was surprised when he wrote back "Yes".

Back to the main point:

A few years ago, stories started circulating of NFL players taking yoga classes and even doing ballet. After the snickering had quieted, the players spoke up. Amani Toomer, Kevin Boss, Troy Polamalu and Tony Parrish publicly supported yoga for added flexibility and "core strength". Hall of Famer Lynn Swann admitted to doing yoga and taking ballet classes during his NFL career.

As someone who plays a "playmaker" position, I would hope that Ryan Mathews would understand how little his big muscles help him during games. He wasn't drafted for his power, but rather his agility and quickness. He's not called upon to bust through the goal line, but is rather asked to avoid open-field tacklers. Focusing more on flexibility would help Mathews improve his game and avoid injury.

Oh, what's that? You didn't realize that working on flexibility also helps to avoid injury? Well, it does. Mathews broke his clavicle simply by landing on the inside of his arm. Had he done enough yoga to stretch out his shoulder, and if he didn't have muscles in the way of that arm stretching that direction, the bone may not have broken.

I want my Fullbacks to look like that could run through a brick wall. I want my running backs to look slippery and fast. More like this and less like this. Hopefully, new Strength and Conditioning Coach, Kent Johnston agrees.