Why The NFL’s Best Can’t Crush CrossFit

March 21, 2014

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The question has surfaced in conversations for years now, both within the CrossFit world and among its critics: What if one of the fittest athletes from a major pro sports league like the NFL entered the CrossFit Games? He'd obviously mop the floor with everybody else, right?

The premise is that the talent, strength and conditioning level of an All-Pro cornerback exists on another stratosphere, and even 3-time CrossFit Games Champion Rich Froning could not keep up if they went head-to-head. At the recent announcement of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Open in New Orleans, Dave Castro, director of the CrossFit Games, offered his take on the prediction.

“No, that’s not happening,” Castro said flatly. “No one is coming in and crushing the CrossFit Games or CrossFit competitions without a solid base of CrossFit, without having done CrossFit for years.”

Castro added, “It’s way too far beyond that now.”

Castro urges us to consider the athletes who are currently at the top of the CrossFit leader board, like Froning. “People think Rich came out of nowhere and just started dominating,” he said. “He had two or three years under his belt before he rose to the rank he’s at now. That’s not to say someone from [the major sports world] couldn’t win. But they won’t be coming out of the blue.”

Castro’s sentiments got an endorsement from a surprising source: New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. Payton, who led the Saints to the 2009 Super Bowl Championship, is a dedicated CrossFitter. He took up the activity while in Dallas at an affiliate box known as the Tiger’s Den, and he currently trains at the Big Easy CrossFit in New Orleans. The 50-year-old coach has integrated elements of CrossFit into the Saints' strength and conditioning program.

Payton, who attended the CrossFit Open announcement last week, described his team’s first “test” workout based on CrossFit, which players performed prior to embarking on their 11-5 season last year. The coaching staff split the Saints into four squads based on size and position, and the players performed the following circuit workout for time:

  • 10 Power Cleans
  • 10 Air Squats
  • 10 Burpees
  • 10 Shuttle Runs

The Shuttle Runs started at 40 yards and decreased each round, with no rest between circuits.

Payton said his players were not exactly thrilled with the new approach. “They were like the anti-CrossFit people,” he declared, adding that their sentiments were due to the fact that they knew the workout would be very challenging.

The Saints may reach deeper into the CrossFit world for more ideas to implement in their program. The team has reportedly been working with Dr. Kelly Starrett, author of Becoming a Supple Leopard, co-owner of San Francisco CrossFit and a Subject Matter Expert for CrossFit Inc., to improve the team’s movement and mobility work.

Will an NFL star some day jump in the CrossFit Games and dust the competition? Castro and Payton don’t believe it will happen. The question that might sooner be answered is: Will other NFL teams integrate CrossFit into their training?

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Topics: FOOTBALL | CROSSFIT
T.J. Murphy
- T.J. Murphy is one of the world’s most prolific writers on endurance running. The former Editorial Director at the Competitor Group magazines, he has served...
T.J. Murphy
- T.J. Murphy is one of the world’s most prolific writers on endurance running. The former Editorial Director at the Competitor Group magazines, he has served...

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