Two weeks before the 2021 season, the Carolina Panthers traded Denzel Perryman to the Las Vegas Raiders. Trades are a part of football, but what upset this move for the linebacker was that he had just signed with Carolina earlier in the spring.
Already motivated for the opportunity to do more than he did in his final years with the Chargers, the new chip on Perryman's shoulder hyped him even more - leading to his best season of his seven-year career.
His 154 tackles doubled his previous season high of 73 sets in his rookie season. That was good for the sixth-best pick in the NFL and the highest pick by a Raiders player since 2000. He was also the Raiders' first inside linebacker Pro Bowl selection since Matt Millen in 1988.
Ahead of the Raiders' season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 11, Denzel Perryman spoke to Muscle and Fitness about what drove him to have the best season of his career and what he's learned over the years in building a routine to ensure he is always at his best in training camp and throughout the season.
Denzel Perryman is driven from within
Last season I felt like there was a lot of internal motivation for me. I was traded just before the start of the season. We are professionals and we all understand that it is a business. But I had just signed with this team [Carolina Panthers]. Mentally I felt like I was at a point where I was questioning myself a bit, but I was surrounded by great teammates and coaches who helped change all of that. w, with these new people and a new team, it just turns the clock back. There are many new faces and a new coaching system. It's just getting everyone together, getting used to the system and how to train [Josh] McDaniels makes things.
As the season approaches, I'm like a little kid at Christmas getting ready to go downstairs and open my presents. I know I'm a veteran now and in the eighth grade, but I still feel like a young man and that's what keeps me going. We're all out there to work, but I still enjoy it. I feel like if I treat this like a job - I won't say I won't have as much fun - but then I think more like a businessman than just going out there and doing what I've been doing ever since was 6 years old.
Let the body rest
I probably took a month off this off-season. Everyone is different but I really know my body now. Some people may return to the facility to train right after the season. For me, I need to give my body some time to rest. I'm working on getting more sleep than the hours I'm getting. I am a night owl and an early riser at the same time. I can go to sleep at 2am and get up at 5am and go to workout and I'm fine. I know it's not healthy, but it kind of works. IM working on it. It sounds easy to just walk into the room and lie down instead of just sitting on the couch.
From a mental point of view, this month of my time off was very important. A lot of people just see us as football players and not the things we're going through on a personal level. This month I pulled myself together. My soccer switch was completely off. It was my job to mentally put myself on the right track and make sure I had everything right, so I don't worry about anything else as the season approaches. As the season approaches and we start getting back into OTAs, I'll just go back and read my notes to focus on football again - the game is challenging and testing. As you get closer to coverage, start looking at the installations and old film to get your focus back on.
Courtesy of Las Vegas Raiders
Creating a routine for Denzel Perryman
For the first few years, I would take two weeks off after the season and immediately start exercising again and not letting my body rest. Then comes training camp and I have an injury and you're wondering what's going on. I was probably 245 at the time, so I was heavy, but I worked out every day. I wouldn't say I ate right, but I ate. w I know what I can and can't eat and what I can do at certain times. As you get older, you figure out a routine.
I will train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is my rest day and the weekend is also used for rest and relaxation. During those days that I work out, I drink water. I'm a big wing eater and that's all I eat. If we go to a five star restaurant, if I see wings on the menu, I order them. It's a lot of protein and rice, an occasional steak and some seafood. But I must have my wings.
Use the repetitions
As for conditioning, I would literally run outside. I live where there is a slope. Well, from the stop sign to my house, that's maybe a good 50 meters straight uphill. I would go out there and run six of them and try to get it under a certain time. As the days go by I will increase the number of repetitions and decrease the time. I always tell myself, and soccer players can attest to that, you never really get in shape until you play soccer with your coaches. I can do the same exercises as in training, but my rest time may not be the same as what my trainers give me.
Recovery of the cold tub
I play a real physical game and seek lots of contact. I got smarter because I want to be able to walk around with my kids. After the game, your adrenaline is still pumping so high that you only really feel the aches and pains from the game on Tuesday. We play on Sunday and you could come in and be in pain the next day. But this Tuesday you really feel the result of the contact. For me, after a game, my mind is still on the game and you really don't think about injuries.
I know a lot of guys will jump into the cold tubs after the game. Some guys will go and eat. The next day maybe some guys will go to the facility and take care of her body. I might have to start becoming one of those guys who soaks in the tub after a game because I really don't start feeling everything until Tuesday. The cold and hot tubs are really important. I'm old school and would rather sit outside in the tubs - where you throw the ice cream cones in and not really know how cold it is - than sit in an actual cold tub.
Denzel Perryman and the 24-hour rule
After the game, you have 24 hours to get over how you felt about the game. After we've seen the film, what's done is done. I know my first three years, if I felt like I'd had a bad game, I'd think about it afterwards and let it affect my mood. Having experienced guys and coaches who spoke to me over the years has helped me to continue and get better from those experiences. That's my approach now. I sometimes go out to eat after a game, but mostly; I come home and watch the game on TV just to hear what the commentators say or see how it looks from a fan's perspective.
Follow Denzel Perryman on Instagram @d_perryman52.