"I don't focus too much on stats, but having the most catches by a raider of all time means something to me," says Waller. The record was set in 2020, when Carr relied on the tight end in a season that saw the team's wide receivers pounded by a series of injuries and problems. The situation is one Waller doesn't expect to see repeated with a few new WRs coming in, but that doesn't mean he's resting on his laurels. "I don't expect the same number of touches, but I want to be productive in whatever I need to do in a piece."
Given the wide range of responsibilities Waller has as a tight end, Afzal uses a number of modalities to prepare him for game day. Depending on how he's feeling, the routine could include Keizer machines, plyo boxes, resistance bands, and kettlebells. "Darren needs to be able to block hard, slash fast and move explosively," says Afzal. "So I try to avoid one-sided training, I want to target multiple muscles and improve coordination between those muscles."
As a specialist in physical therapy and orthopedics, Afzal is also well placed to help Waller through the inevitable effects the athlete will suffer on the field. "It's a full-contact sport," he says. "The best we can do is adjust his training when necessary and do everything we can to ensure that he is as strong as possible when he plays."
How Darren Waller is recovering
Pushing boundaries doesn't end in the gym. Waller brings that same tenacity to his recovery. It's not about finding practices that he's comfortable with, it's about finding ways to get back into the game quicker. Today, the routine includes a weekly visit to IMR Float, a recovery center in Henderson, NV. There he sits in a 150 degree hot sauna and is led through a meditation by one of the guides. After sweating for about five minutes, he takes a cold shower before soaking in a cold tub at about 50 degrees.