Given what the Buffalo Bills achieved in the 2020 season and expectations for the year ahead, the off-season was a relatively quiet time for the reigning AFC East champions. But for the second grader, Zack Moss, it was a quietly exhausting off-season of rehab.
After an outstanding passing attack, the Bills went 13-3, won their first Conference title since 1995 and stayed one game behind the Super Bowl. With the emphasis certainly being placed on neutralizing quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs with opposing defenses, Moss and Devin Singletary will rely even more on the two-pronged running assault this season to strike some balance high-level offensive of the Bills.
Moss wants to build on a rookie campaign that has been filled with both ups and downs. After being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Moass rushed for 481 yards and four touchdowns. He missed three games with a turf toe injury, then was abandoned after sustaining an ankle injury on his first start against the Indianapolis Colts on the wild card weekend.
Moss tore the deltoid ligament in his ankle in January and had the “graphene” operation to stabilize the joint in January and has been in rehab since then. It's a recovery the 23-year-old describes as "the toughest recovery I've ever come back from," but his mindset was to dominate each day of rehab.
Moss goes to training camp with a much leaner and muscular 220 pounds, the same weight as last season, a sign that his rehabilitation has been successful.
"[The ankle] has developed very well in such a short time and we've made great strides," says Moss. "I'm just ready to see what's next with the ankle and try to control any obstacle that comes before my eyes."
Had it not been for the injury, he would have spent his off-season training in his hometown of Miami and at the University of Utah, where he is the school's rushing director of all time. Instead, his days revolved around restoring the strength and mobility of his ankle and surrounding ligaments and muscles.
Most mornings start at 9 a.m. when Moss ’day begins with a quick warm up, followed by some flexibility exercises and an ankle massage. He then goes into his weightlifting routine for his upper and lower body and then off to the training room for an ankle strengthening program to rebuild strength in his Achilles tendon muscle with the goal of making the ankle stronger than what it was .
One year 1 NFL Moss-terclass
Zack Moss' rookie year was a masterclass in football and learned how much harder he has to work at a professional level.
"Every day is an audition," he said. "It doesn't matter if you were drafted for a role on a particular team, you have to come into the game with an advantage each day, knowing that that day is an audition and that every day of those guys in this league, those who work their way up in college, those who haven't been drafted can have their jobs.
Interestingly, Moss says he had never played a draw before last season – not even in high school – and he had to adjust as he learned different pass guards and schemes. Outside of the field, he makes sure he is taking supplements to aid recovery and ensure his body is getting the nutrients it needs to endure the rigors of the NFL. He's also introduced a new warm-up routine and is always curious about the coaches and exercise scientists at Bills for information that will help him get better.
“I do a groin stretch, a warm-up of the hamstring, in which I force this fast-twitching muscle to cut right before training. I'll be doing a few plate holds while I work on my Achilles to get those going. Maybe I'll do a quick massage on my quads and hop in the hot tub for 10 minutes and then be ready to go.
“The leg press is an exercise I really enjoy doing,” he continued. “It just helps to activate so much in the lower body. Do iso-plate holds to cheer the calves and Achilles for all the force exerted on them. I'm just trying to strengthen those little muscles every day. When holding the Iso-Platen, I hold on the right side for six seconds, on the left side for six seconds and usually do four sets of six seconds each. "
Bills are due now
During the Bill's off-season drills, Moss, whose cousins were former NFL wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss, was relegated to a spectator role but is expected to be ready when training camp begins in late July. Aside from the grueling rehab he had to go through to get back to doing what he loves, the injury has only strengthened his belief that nothing should be taken for granted and that he be making the most of opportunities. It's a message he is happy to share with his Ute alumni who are working to get into the NFL, as well as any young prospects.
"Being in this league is an advantage," said Moss. “There are a lot of more talented guys who didn't make it through high school, who were better than the guys who made it into the league. I know a lot of people who fit this role. I'm from Miami and it's a big football city. There aren't many places in this job, so you have to come in every day and do your job. "