Life Lessons from the 2011 NFL Preseason

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

The 2011 NFL season—you know, the one that didn’t exist until a new collective bargaining agreement was announced in July—has kicked off and appears to have benefited from the short-lived moratorium.

In the midst of the lockout, players reported feeling stronger and healthier due to extended time off the field. Other players demonstrated leadership and responsibility in conducting their own training sessions.

And the debacle didn’t seem to hurt ratings: Forty-two million viewers tuned in for three days’ worth of coverage during the NFL Draft, the NFL Network registered six of the top 10 all-time most-watched preseason games, and Thursday night's Packers-Saints game drew the second-highest rating for an opener in the past 13 years.

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If the National Football League can bounce back from a lockout with moxie, then you can, too. It’s time to move on from that breakup, to finally rehab that tweaked muscle, to outsmart the recession. Here’s what the preseason can teach you about your own life.

Rex Grossman was named the Washington Redskins’ opening day starting quarterback. Not only is the 31-year-old vet alive and well, but he and his career 70.9 passer rating (along with 40 INTs) also secured an NFL roster spot and starting job.
Average-guy lesson: Grossman’s hard work and smart play helped him overcome stigma (and even a lack of physical ability) to rightfully win a starting job this summer. If you’re an older guy, take a page out of his book by staying sharp: musclemorphosis.com, according to a recent University of Illinois review. Exercising just three days every week for 30 minutes is enough to observe increased production of neurochemicals that promote brain cell repair, improve memory, lengthen attention span, boost decision-making skills, prompt growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels, and improve multitasking and planning.

Lance Briggs, he of the 6-year, $36 million contract, formally asked the Chicago Bears to trade him when they refused to restructure his contract because it guaranteed him only $3.9 million in 2011. As of yesterday, Bears owner Jerry Angelo said he wasn’t moving the linebacker.
Average-guy lesson: Contracts are binding and put you at the behest of contractors. “The answer to getting out of a contract is usually found within the contract itself,” says Liam Roth, owner of the California-based law firm Your Contract Lawyer. “There is often a termination provision that outlines the steps you need to take to end the contractual relationship. Of course, the best way to ensure there is an 'out' in a contract is to negotiate for it at the contract’s original drafting,” Roth says.

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Peyton Manning’s streak of 227 consecutive starts (including postseason) will end on Sunday due to a neck injury. Instead of the four-time league MVP, the Indianapolis Colts will throw 16-year vet Kerry Collins under center after coaxing the 39-year-old QB out of retirement last month.
Average-guy lesson: Kerry Collins is no Peyton Manning, so the Colts will have to find new ways to win football games. In the same vein, you too may need to quickly adapt to change if your routine is thrown off-kilter. “When you make a significant change to your routine, your brain must unlearn its usual patterns and develop new neural networks to help your new schedule feel routine again,” says sociologist Martha Beck, Ph.D. Unlearning a pattern requires significant energy and can leave you feeling confused and exhausted, so slowly integrate a new routine into your schedule.

Cam Newton, the controversial high-profile Auburn quarterback, was drafted by the Carolina Panthers as a “project” and labeled a “work in progress” throughout the preseason. Now he’s set to start the Panthers’ opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Average-guy lesson: The Panthers’ management downplayed this swift change with football-appropriate lingo. That might be the best course of action for you in the workplace, too. If there’s a big change at work—finances, down-sizing, relocation, etc.—you are obliged to communicate the change and how it impacts the company, the employees, and the external stakeholders, says Vickie Cox Edmondson, Ph.D., a business administration and economics professor at Morehouse College. Soften the blow with a smart script. “Scenario-building—playing out the different responses you’re likely to hear—opens up your mind and allows you to identify and come to grips with your own expectations, which makes you better prepared to address others’ expectations,” Edmondson says.

The Atlanta Falcons, by some measures preseason Super Bowl favorites, finished the preseason 0-4. Yikes! But we all know the preseason doesn’t translate into the regular season: Last year’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers finished the 2010 preseason 2-2, while the lowly San Francisco 49ers went undefeated.
Average-guy lesson: Don’t let an 0-4 preseason dash your hopes for a Super Bowl ring, especially in the gym. If you’re trying a new training program to lose weight or bulk up, don’t feel discouraged by slow progress. “The body often takes time to adjust to the workload, and body adaptation can take up to six months,” says Nnamdi I. Ugbaja, C.P.T., the president of Chicago’s Hour of Change Fitness, Inc. Try musclemorphosis.com tips for breaking through a fat-loss plateau or musclemorphosis.com for escaping that muscle-building rut.

Can you think of any other NFL preseason storyline parallels to guy life? Post them in the comments.

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