Sunday, July 15, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs players strike a pose, tackle yoga

Robert Ayers and Noah Spence, the oldest and youngest of the Bucs' defensive ends, are lined up a few feet apart, each in a decidedly nontraditional three-point stance.

Their hands are on the floor in front of them, and each has one foot planted and the other leg outstretched high behind in the air in what is called the "three-legged dog" position. In a room full of NFL players, they hold the pose for a moment, sweat dripping.

It's yoga, and it's something a handful of Bucs have embraced as part of their offseason conditioning. Rookie Vernon Hargreaves has done it, as have safeties Chris Conte and Keith Tandy and linebacker Adarius Glanton; even Jameis Winston has given it a try.

"I do it every offseason to work on my flexibility, my mobility, my core, my stability," said the 275-pound Ayers, 30, who signed with the Bucs after getting 9 1/2 sacks in a breakout year with the Giants. "I'm not extreme, but I like it. If you want to do things, performance-wise, it's not just about lifting weights and running fast and bench-pressing and pushing sleds."

On this particular Tuesday, the Bucs are taking a yoga class at Performance Compound on Cypress Street in Tampa, having finished normal outdoor and weight-room workouts already. There are 10 football players in Kristy Robinson's class this time, including aspiring Colts and Texans and other locals still hoping to get into the league. They shift from one simple pose to another, with names like "pigeon" and "plank" and "warrior II."

"They do a lot of strength training and conditioning, but it's really important to have flexibility to balance the strength," said Robinson, a former athlete and sports reporter who has practiced yoga for five years and has been an instructor for athletes for two. "Developing more mobility and flexibility is really helpful to prevent injury, and that's huge for an athlete."

Ayers and Spence see yoga in their football — as defensive ends, they're constantly contorting their bodies to bend around and inside offensive tackles as they rush the quarterback. That means keeping their balance and strength in difficult body positions, where the yoga can help them out.

"When I'm trying to turn the edge, if someone's pushing me, I don't want to fall easy," said Ayers, wearing a white Bucs shirt and keeping active during a rare down time on the NFL calendar. "You turn your hips, you flip your feet and stay balanced the whole time. I need to stay strong, to fight resistance, to be flexible, and this helps with all that."

Ayers started doing yoga when he was in college a decade ago, and Spence embraced yoga this spring as part of his preparation for the NFL draft, before he even came to the Bucs.

"It helps me strengthen my hands and my hips, and it really helps being flexible when I'm trying to get around an offensive lineman," said the 22-year-old Spence, the Bucs' second-round draft pick in April. "I'm getting better at it. I slip sometimes but it's like any other thing: You get better as you go."

Robinson tries to explain the importance of specific poses to players — when the class is in a pose called "cow face arms," on their knees, opening their chest with an arm stretched behind them, it's key to get the "toe crunch," with toes on the floor, stretching out the backs of their legs and strengthening the ankles.

Robinson, who works with some players year-round and hopes to work more formally with the Bucs, tries not to get too "spiritual hippie" with yoga, so there's R&B music playing during class. She's careful to always include the savasana — literally the Sanskrit words for "corpse pose" — at the end of class, when the lights are turned off and players lay flat on their backs in a relaxation pose.

"It's great for the mindfulness aspect of it," she said. "Just five, 10 minutes for them to turn their thoughts off. They have such high expectations put on them. It can help them off the field, too."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

     
       
Comments
Tony Dungy on Jameis Winston: ‘He knows the right things to do’

Tony Dungy on Jameis Winston: ‘He knows the right things to do’

Former Bucs coach and current NFL analyst Tony Dungy said Friday that quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension is disappointing, but he still hopes the 24-year-old can learn from his mistakes moving forward."Obviously, it's disappointing, a...
Published: 07/13/18
Mom appreciates ‘surprising’ Winston interaction with kids after workout

Mom appreciates ‘surprising’ Winston interaction with kids after workout

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston continues to be a complicated study in the off-field behavior of pro athletes, doing things that draw criticism and praise, sometimes even in the same hour.Winston drew criticism from some fans today for posting video ...
Published: 07/13/18
Pro Football Focus: The Earth is a cold, dark place and the Buccaneers are really, really bad

Pro Football Focus: The Earth is a cold, dark place and the Buccaneers are really, really bad

So training camp is less than two weeks away, and you're beginning to feel hopeful. Why not the Buccaneers, right?To which Pro Football Focus might respond, "We'll tell you why not."The analysts at the website are not high on the revamped offensive l...
Published: 07/13/18
Flashback: 1979 Bucs defense had ‘Mount Crushmore’

Flashback: 1979 Bucs defense had ‘Mount Crushmore’

As we roll out our own choices for "Mount Rushmore" honors for Tampa Bay sports teams, one of our readers was reminded of a similar treatment for the Bucs defensive line nearly 40 years ago.Sue Avery of Wesley Chapel e-mailed to share a photo  o...
Published: 07/13/18
Here’s our Mount Rushmore of Bucs

Here’s our Mount Rushmore of Bucs

The selection process for a Mount Rushmore of former Bucs players— part of a project from the Times Sports department that includes an overall Mount Rushmore of Tampa Bay athletes — is first incredibly easy, and then exceedingly diff...
Published: 07/13/18
Lawsuit accuses Jaguars’ Marcell Dareus of sexual assault in Lutz

Lawsuit accuses Jaguars’ Marcell Dareus of sexual assault in Lutz

Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is facing two separate lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault, including one from an alleged incident in Lutz in January 2017.The same week that Alabama's football team played Clemson in Tampa for a national c...
Published: 07/11/18
As camp nears, Jameis Winston working out with Randy Moss

As camp nears, Jameis Winston working out with Randy Moss

Bucs veterans report for training camp in exactly two weeks, and quarterback Jameis Winston was preparing Tuesday by working out with a group of NFL receivers and Hall of Famer Randy Moss.Fox 13 TV posted video of Winston working out at Skyway Park, ...
Published: 07/11/18
Sports on Twitter: Which pro teams have seen largest growth?

Sports on Twitter: Which pro teams have seen largest growth?

Two years ago, we took a close look at the official Twitter accounts for all teams in the four major pro sports leagues — NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL — to compare the followings and see which had the best reach in social media.That gave us a wi...
Published: 07/10/18
Staring through the Bucs abyss

Staring through the Bucs abyss

Bucs training camp is now less than a month away, and it feels like dark clouds have gathered around One Buc Place.It happened suddenly.Just a few weeks ago, I wrote how it felt as if the Bucs were starting to take steps toward improvement and there ...
Published: 07/07/18
Random: Warren Sapp praised by … Hunter S. Thompson?

Random: Warren Sapp praised by … Hunter S. Thompson?

I'll try to play this straight, for maximum effect: Former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp drew praise from famed author and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in a 1998 letter written to the Colts lobbying for them to draft Ryan Leaf over Peyton ...
Published: 07/06/18