Feeling normal after football season

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
3:50
PM ET
Pain is part of football. It is such a big part that playing through pain is considered normal for NFL players and the sport's brutality is given less attention than it deserves.

So how do players get back to feeling normal -- non-football normal -- after the season?

ESPN.com's Arizona Cardinals writer Josh Weinfuss examined that question in a piece that ran on the site today. Three people familiar to Houston football fans are featured in the piece: former Houston Texans offensive lineman Eric Winson, current Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and former Oilers quarterback Warren Moon.

An excerpt from Weinfuss's piece:
The Watt you watch on Sundays -- the guy who can't stop moving on defense, who's quick off the snap and even quicker to a quarterback -- is also the same guy when the football season ends. He can't stop going.

"One of the most difficult things for me to do once the season is over is to actually force myself to take time off to let my body recover," said Watt, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year. "I'm one of those guys who ... I love working and if I'm not working, I feel like I'm kind of a bum, so I have to force myself to give myself two or three weeks after the season to let my body fully recover.

"Ideally I would like a month, but I can only usually give myself two weeks."

Some players, [Seattle linebacker Bobby] Wagner among them, take a week. Most players, including Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, may take two. After 17 weeks of hitting, slamming and pummeling each other -- a car wreck on every play, as Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin put it -- players' bodies are broken down. It's rare for an NFL player to finish the season without being banged up. The first two weeks after the season usually confuse the body. It's treating those 14 days like a bye week, Roethlisberger said. Small injuries start to heal. But the body is preparing itself to be hit again.

Lenon said the first two weeks after a season feel worse than the last two weeks of the season.

"Things hurt that I didn't realize were bothering me because I was just so focused on going," he said.

And after three weeks?

"When your body gets a space like this right now," Winston said, "it's wondering what the hell is going on."

Former quarterback Warren Moon played in the CFL and NFL for 22 seasons. He usually had a week or two off after the season, depending on how far his teams -- the Houston Oilers, Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City -- went in the playoffs before the Pro Bowl. Then he'd relax for two weeks before starting his offseason workouts.

"Then I'd slowly get back into it," said Moon, who would concentrate on different areas of his body with each workout. "My body would feel pretty good. Working out made my body feel good. It kept the blood flowing, stretched the muscles and got the lactic acid out of the body. That would make play a lot better. I took a lot of steam showers or steam baths to make myself sweat and get those impurities out of my body."

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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