Less than four months into 2021, Jon Feliciano already has 17 million reasons why it was worth never giving up in 2020.
If an athlete had an excuse to turn it off last year, Buffalo Bills' right guard could easily raise his hand - but Feliciano was barely able to raise one of his arms last year due to two debilitating injuries.
The Bills offensive line anchor began with an operation on the left rotator cuff in January 2020. With his rehab going well and his strength increasing week by week - the 6 & # 39; 4 & # 39; & # 39 ;, 340 pounder was even 20 pounds lighter when he entered the camp - all signs indicated that he had the best season of his six-year career.
When he went to camp in the best shape of his career, his worst-case scenario became a reality last August. Feliciano suffered an excruciating third degree tear in his right chest in an unusual bench press accident. His early thoughts were that the injury was the end of the season.
"I've had a lot of bumps and bruises playing football but nothing has ever made me vomit in pain," recalled Feliciano. “I told my spotter not to touch the bar and when I pushed I felt the ribbon snap in my chest. It felt like slow motion even though it was fast. "
Two days later, Feliciano was operated on and brought to the injured reservation in September. It also meant almost two months before weight training.
Winning is a huge motivator, however, and as the Bills become the surprise team at the start of the NFL season, winning five of their first seven games while Feliciano struggled to reach 10 pounds during rehab. The team's quick start - and the increasing likelihood of reaching the playoffs - helped Feliciano focus even more on the field. Feliciano, who had not fully recovered but was strong enough to make a contribution, made an early return to the line-up in Week 8 against the Patriots.
"It definitely helped when the team started out hot," says Feliciano. It's like "thank god the team wins". I do my job here to get back into the field and they are just going about their business. I have the potential to play a lot more games than I originally thought. "
With Feliciano back in the line-up, the Bills won eight of their last nine regular season games and reached the championship game before being beaten 38-24 by the Kansas City Chiefs.
For his work in the line-up, Feliciano was recognized with the team's Ed Block Courage Award. And last March, Feliciano re-signed with the Bills for three years, $ 17 million. Well now, he says, his off-season goal is to get his upper body back to pre-injury levels. Feliciano says this requires an off-season regime of high reps on the bench press to regain his range of motion. His workouts also included a lot of obnoxious line work, including many ladder exercises to develop footwork, along with a high dose of heavy bag-pounding.
"I still feel like I have a lot to prove," said Feliciano. "I haven't felt healthy at all until now. I still am. As before, I am still doing rehab for my circumstances, you know, to get this right. Uh, so I have a lot to prove. I want to prove what for a player i am when i am healthy.
t only does Feliciano explain the mindset it took to get back on the field last year, but he also shares the principles that led to his successful NFL career in this episode of Muscle and Fitness' Winning Strategy series AFC East title, a new contract. and what to expect after living in the NFL.
1.STOP LIVING, START WORKING (AGAIN)
I have already rehabilitated my left rotator cuff, which I operated on in January 2020. All gyms were closed due to COVID-19 and I spent a ton of money building a great home gym in my garage. I changed my diet and went from 340 to 317 for the camp. I felt slim and strong. Then I tear my chest. After all of this, I cried for a moment, from working in the best shape of my career to a season that might have been taken from me - and into a contract year.
The injury happened on a Wednesday, but I had an operation on Friday. They originally told me it would take me about 16 weeks to recover - that would have been week 12 - so knowing that I can get back on the field last season was a great motivation.
It took me about six weeks to pick up a dumbbell. We started with 10 pounds on my bad pec and 90 pounds on the other. That took about two weeks. About eight weeks later I started doing six, 50 pounds, 60 pounds. But to be honest, I didn't feel very strong all season.
2. WORK YOUR BRAWN AND YOUR BRAWN
As a right guard, offense depends on my doing many things. We get the piece from (Bill's quarterback) Josh (Allen). We break the group and as I go to the line I try to help our center by trying to diagnose what the defense is trying to do. If it's a running game I'll let them know who we have. Sometimes I call passport security who has the response.
My calls set the entire deck for the entire offense, so my job is as mental as it is powerful and agile. During the off-season and during rehab, my coaches let me try to keep my brain sharp through a variety of exercises. While doing an exercise, certain words or phrases that I remember and that I have to repeat during the workout are thrown away. There are also many times that I go to plays during rehab. I've been doing it so many times for so long that it has now become second nature to me.
3. NEVER EVALUATE THE BOOK BY ITS COVER
I'm 6 & # 39; 4 "and weigh over 300 pounds. As an offensive lineman, people think we're just fat and not athletic. We have to be athletic because we compete against the best athletes on the field - guys 6 & # 39; 39; 6 & # 39; & # 39 ;, 290 or even 315 pounds that a 4.4 can run, we have to block them every game.
Let's put it this way: if you're on the defensive and get a sack every game, that's a pretty good year. If you give up 16 sacks you will be out of the league very soon.
Guys don't believe that I can move the way I can. I'm really good at basketball - I was the first basketball player in high school - and I think that helps my athletic skills a lot. We do a lot of obstacle course moves at Bills Camp and the guys are really shocked at the way I move. We even have dodge ball games and I can fucking dodge dodge ball.
4. MOVE YOUR FINISH LINE
Right now I'm doing a lot of boxing / MMA work to improve my shot in football. It's basically the same - I "hit" a guy every game. But being the UFC heavyweight champion sounds like a great time.
I started hitting the heavy bag last year for an upper body day conditioning. It's usually five three-minute rounds - the toughest conditioning I've ever done. After that I will die.
The heavyweight division in the UFC only climbs up to 265 pounds. Right now I'm going around the 330. For one, having my weight control prepares me for a healthier post-soccer life when I'm in control of my weight. But I'm super competitive and I fell in love with MMA. My good friend (UFC welterweight) Miguel Baeza keeps inviting me to train with him. I just haven't got up to do it yet.
5. THERE IS VALUE TO BE VALUABLE
Being versatile not only makes you a better athlete, but also a more valuable team. For the first four years of my career, I was the backup swing guy in Oakland. I had to play all three indoor positions in case someone failed. When I moved to Buffalo it was only a matter of course for me to do so. And honestly it's the same routine, you just flip your hips on the other side. In football, just learn to keep your flexibility - I do a lot of yoga to keep my body loose - and just practice everything on both sides. It will help.