Professional athletes are supposed to be almost God-like when it comes to their physique. Just go to James Harrison's Instagram page and you can see what most people think when they imagine the training regimen for NFL athletes. What is most disappointing to fans is when you hear NFL head coaches chastising rookies for being out of shape.
The most recent account comes from newly hired Hue Jackson, coach of the Cleveland Browns when talking about their first round pick Corey Coleman, wide receiver from Baylor.
"He's got to get in shape," Jackson said of Coleman, via Cleveland.com. "He's explosive and he can catch the ball. He's extremely talented and gifted. (But) he's one of the guys that has to get in shape. He saw himself, 'whoa, this is different.' And it is. But we'll get him to where he needs to be."
"He understands where he needs to be and I'm excited about him. He gets it. It'd be different if I didn't think a young man gets it, he does," Jackson said. "And he knows there's work to do. That's what this is all about. That's why they call us coaches. We've got to take these guys and mold them into our culture and to our idea of being football players for the Cleveland Browns and we'll get them there."
Good for Jackson for calling out Coleman and his conditioning entering the NFL as a first round pick. However, this shouldn't just be for first round draft picks, but any player entering the league. The transition from the college game to the NFL is not as smooth as many anticipate, and conditioning seems to be one of the main issues, not just with the Browns draft picks, but other teams as well.
If public criticism for a lack of conditioning might sound familiar, you might recall hearing a similar sentiment coming from Mike Tomlin prior to the 2015 season with receiver Sammie Coates. Coates was expected to be a potential 4th wide receiver as a rookie, and to fill a role vacated by Martavis Bryant in the first four games of the regular season. What fans saw was Coates repeatedly inactive on game days. Why? He wasn't in game shape...at least not to NFL standards. This wasn't the first time something like this happened to the Steelers. Martavis Bryant was also criticized for his conditioning as a rookie in 2014.
So, what is the underlying issue with these athletes not coming to the NFL in top physical shape?
Some might chalk it up to injuries, others might point to underestimating the level of conditioning needed to play professional football, and some might even suggest the players lack the discipline necessary to succeed at the NFL level. Regardless of how you view it, as Jackson stated in his criticism to Coleman, the NFL is different for these players. What they did in college to succeed won't necessarily work at the next level. For some, they realize this early and are able to contribute as a rookie, but others it takes time.
What coaches, and fans, hope for are the players who learn this lesson a bit slower than others, to eventually realize what it takes to reach their full potential. For the Steelers, Coates learned the hard way, and watched from the sideline the majority of his rookie campaign. Here is to hoping he, and the Steelers' current crop of rookies, learn quickly and are able to contribute to the team in a big way next season.