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Kyle Long to Replace Jason Peters at 2016 NFL Pro Bowl

Bleacher Report January 14, 2016


Chicago Bears offensive tackle Kyle Long is going to his third straight Pro Bowl, as he was named to the contest as a replacement for Philadelphia Eagles lineman Jason Peters on Thursday.  


Zach Zaidman of the Bears Radio Network was the first to report the news, as Peters will sit out after suffering myriad injuries during the season, including an elbow ailment in December 2015.


Chicago took Long with the No. 20 overall selection in the 2013 NFLdraft, and he has been a staple of its line ever since, missing only one game in three campaigns.


The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long started all 16 games in 2015, and although the Bears struggled to a 6-10 record, he did well to pave the way for running back Matt Forte and protect quarterbackJay Cutler.


Peters was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl and the eighth of his career, but the 2015 season wasn't an easy one for the 33-year-old veteran, as he was constantly banged up and missed two contests.


The Pro Bowl will be played during the week in between and the AFC and the NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl, and while offensive linemen rarely receive much recognition for their contributions, Long's hard work will once again be rewarded by locking horns with the NFL’s very best.

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NY GIants Draw Blood in Quest for an Edge

The Wall Street Journal January 13, 2016


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—The Giants had a reputation for being old-fashioned under Tom Coughlin, the 69-year-old former head coach who in his resignation remarks last week complained that today’s players lacked toughness and begged out of games because of a “toothache.”


Yet despite the Giants’ fusty image, the coach who succeeds Coughlin, who according to a team source will be Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, will inherit a football program that is among the NFL’s most innovative in the field of sports science.


The team’s most sophisticated initiative: a blood-testing service that has drawn rave reviews from players who say it helps improve athletic performance—as well as complaints that it draws too much blood.

Over the past three years, the Giants have experimented with new technology to try to gain an edge. Players wear GPS chips during practice so trainers can make sure they’re not fatigued. Their urine is tested weekly to ensure they’re hydrated. They wear electronic sleep monitors to improve their slumber.


The most elaborate project is a partnership with Quest Diagnostics,the Madison, N.J.-based laboratory-testing company. Since the 2014 season, Quest Diagnostics has provided mandatory blood tests to players during training camp and voluntary tests about once a month during the regular season.


The tests help players determine whether they have any allergies or any deficiencies—in iron or folates, for example—to help them train better and to make sure their bodies are in peak form on game day. The comprehensive preseason tests examine about 200 biomarkers.


Head athletic trainerRonnie Barnes said Quest Diagnostics contacted his staff three years ago, but he redirected the call to the marketing department since the team was looking for a new sponsor. He later realized that Quest Diagnostics was seeking more than a marketing deal.


 “They were really talking about wearable technology and patches that might look at sodium loss or salt loss, and then of course all of the markers for fatigue,” Barnes said. “Really, on a cold call, something excellent came out of that.”

As part of the deal, Quest Diagnostics got the naming rights to the Giants’ training facility here and the two sides worked together to develop the blood-testing program, called Blueprint for Athletes.


Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich learned two things from the testing. First: He had a moderate peanut allergy. “It halts my metabolic process and my performance dwindles if I do have peanuts in my diet,” he said. He also learned he was not eating enough by December. “Practices taper off at the end of seasons,” he said. “Sometimes when you don’t do as much, you don’t eat as much because you’re not quite as hungry.”


Fullback Nikita Whitlock said he started adding spinach to his omelets because the tests found he was low in folic acid, which helps the body produce red blood cells. It also helps him monitor his cholesterol, which he said was high for hereditary reasons.


About a week after the tests, Quest Diagnostics gives the results to players and offer them consultations. When the program first began in the 2014 season, the results were mostly blocks of text. Assistant athletic trainer Leigh Weiss, who largely oversees the program for the Giants, gave feedback to Quest Diagnostics, saying the players wanted something more visual. The firm came up with new results sheets that showed something like speedometers for the biomarkers, as well as specific recommendations for each player.


“You can actually physically see what you’re deficient in,” tight endJerome Cunningham said. “It’s like: ‘Oh, I’m really tired.’ Well, you need more iron or calcium or something like that to incorporate into your diet.” Cunningham said after starting the tests, he reduced added sugar in his diet and now feels more energetic in the afternoon.

Weiss also said that as a result of the blood tests, the Giants worked with their cafeteria staff to post clearer labeling on food, so players can avoid things they’re allergic to.


The blood testing is mandatory for players during training camp, but voluntary during the season because the collective-bargaining agreement between the league and players’ union can’t compel players to take blood tests after the preseason, Weiss said. Richard Schwabacher, executive director of Quest Diagnostics Sports and Human Performance, said about half the Giants participate in the voluntary program.


One deterrent to joining the voluntary program: the amount of blood drawn. One Giants player who asked not to be named said he didn’t opt into the regular-season program because he felt that the tests took too much blood and would hinder recovery for games. “It is a lot,” said Cunningham, who participates in the program. “They get a lot of vials. It’s like 13 of them.”


A Quest Diagnostics spokeswoman said the blood tests require special treatment, additives and processing temperatures and must be collected in different tubes, which may make it seem like more blood is being drawn than is actually the case. She said the blood drawn is about 1% of an athlete’s total volume, whereas the typical volume for a blood donation, one pint, would be about 8%.


“It looks like a lot of blood,” Weiss said. “We brought that back to Quest and we’ve told them our players are concerned. And they’ve helped us with that and from year one to year two, we decreased the number of vials.”

Should any amateur athletes want to try the service, Quest Diagnostics plans to start offering Blueprint for Athletes to consumers this year.


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