Eagles right tackle Winston Justice begins his second season of writing a column for the Daily News. During the season, his column will appear Wednesdays.
I cannot believe the season is already upon us. The offseason went by extremely fast. It seems like we just left Dallas. I am grateful for the many opportunities I had the past few months. I had a wonderful chance to serve in Haiti at the Mission of Hope orphanage helping the men, women, and children rebuild after the devastating earthquake. I also attended an amazing youth camp, as an honorary counselor in Branson, Mo., at Kids Across America. The camp runs programs for inner-city youths by teaching sports and providing Christian outreach. In both of these experiences, I was reminded how much a gift playing football is and how athletes can inspire so many people just by playing a sport.
The offseason also brings extra time to spend with my wife, my son and, as of July 23, 2010, we have been blessed with a new addition, a daughter, Calais Shalom Justice.
Ultimately, during the time off, I dedicate the summer to training for the next season. In March, workouts begin with the team. In addition, most players are always looking to accelerate their game with outside mental and physical preparations. By immersing myself in various workouts to improve different attributes of my game, I am always trying to become a more complete football player. All the hard work and preparation leads to Lehigh, where much of the season is determined in a short period of time.
This summer, I took up mixed martial arts and added this to my regimen of strength and cardio training. The benefit of MMA, as a football player, is that I am always trying to move my hands as quickly as possible. The speed of a punch in the ring correlates to the speed of a punch as an offensive lineman. A typical routine from March until July 29 includes workouts with the Eagles in the morning at NovaCare, then onto Cherry Hill, where a bunch of guys work out with our own personal trainer, and MMA workouts in the evening. During this training phase, it is also important to stick with a strict high protein diet.
I remember my rookie year, when camp took me by surprise. In 2006, the Eagles were in the Hall of Fame Game and camp lasted almost 5 shockingly long weeks. Those days seemed to last forever. Being busy from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. took a lot of getting used to. The most important aspect of training camp I learned my rookie year was the intensity of the practice and the intensity each player gives to each play. Every move, every play, every step is scrutinized again and again on film, even during our time in Lehigh.
By the looks of minicamp, the rookies coming in seem to be a very hard-working and talented group. But training camp in the NFL is not like college. It's very physical but, more importantly, it takes a greater amount of mental stamina. The amount of plays you must learn and understanding the different schemes and strategies can be daunting as a first-year player. Not to mention, some guys' careers end at camp, but some also begin. So there is a lot of anxiety and pressure because you don't want to be that guy going home.
The Eagles have a young team this year, full of potential and will. If I had a dime for the amount of times I've walked around the city and fans have asked about Kevin Kolb, I'd be a rich man. The whole team stands behind Kolb. He has the talent to succeed and, most importantly, he works hard. And through my short football career, I know that the extra effort really does pay off. Kolb is usually one of the first men on the field and the last to leave. I am really anxious for this young Eagles team to get out there and compete and, most importantly, win.
The offensive line has a lot to prove this year. With a new quarterback and running back, the pressure is on us. But we are up for the challenge. We have a core group of guys that love to work hard and we have all been playing together now for a few years and we have learned to play off each other's strengths and weaknesses. Although we haven't all lined up together at times, we have experience with each other.