The strength and conditioning coach on an NFL doesn't get a lot of attention. This is mostly due to the fact that they work behind the scenes and at times can last throughout multiple coaching regimes.
So when the Bears announced Rusty Jones, who held the position since 2005, would be retiring and Mike Clark would take over, it naturally was not as thoroughly discussed as the hiring of Marc Trestman or Aaron Kromer.
For some quick background, Clark came to the Bears from the Chiefs, where he served as strength and conditioning coach from 2010-2012. Before that he held the same job with the Seahawks from 2004-2009.
Clark's experience goes beyond the NFL level, having served at various colleges going back to the early 1980s.
Will there be any major changes in the way the Bears train under Clark compared to how they trained under Jones? According to Dan Pompei, yes.
Clark comes to the Bears from the Chiefs with an emphasis on explosive, multi-joint movements that are designed to increase power, which he defines as mass times velocity.
It is a subtle shift from the previous strength program, which was more geared more toward sustainable strength and injury avoidance. And it also may be a little counter trend in the NFL, as some teams have gone away from this style of training in the interest of player preservation.
Apparently, the players are buying in.
"There is a lot more emphasis on power and explosion — more hang cleans, power cleans, things of that nature, core work, things that are necessary to play football," said Bears offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, who has not been in a similar weight program since he was at Texas 2002-05. "I think it's going to be very effective. It's getting back to the basics of what football is."
This way makes sense for the Bears' new regime. Since Phil Emery has taken over there has been more of an emphasis on athleticism and explosiveness. The transition to the Trestman regime has been no different, with word coming out about practices being held at a faster pace and that the offense will focus on having an explosive identity.
Emery himself began his career as a strength and conditioning coach and, in fact, he has a history with Clark.
During his time in college, he [Clark] met an assistant strength coach at a clinic. The up-and-coming coach picked his brain and they talked about techniques, velocity training and organization of training. They visited in subsequent years at conventions.
When the assistant strength coach was a candidate for the strength coach position at Navy, he asked Clark to recommend him. Clark did so without reservation.
Twenty two years later, Clark found himself being interviewed by that man. And Bears general manager Phil Emery was thrilled to hire him.
It will be interesting to see if these changes transition in any kind of obvious way to the field this fall, but Pompei writes that it won't take long at Bourbonnais to figure out who has been putting in the work.
One of the first orders of business in Bourbonnais will be a 300-yard shuttle conditioning test administered by Clark. Each player has to hit a prescribed time depending on his position.
Anyone who has been working in the program during the offseason should have no problem passing.
The new era for the Bears will be defined by athleticism, speed and explosion. It will be interesting to see it all come together on the field and see if it is the right direction to go in order to win a championship.
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