He was told to put on weight. Then he had to lose it. The Redskins’ third-year linebacker reflects on how a challenging offseason prepared him for the best year of his young NFL career. *
Earlier this year as Redskins players were training in the offseason, Trent Murphy received a call. It was his defensive coordinator, Joe Barry. The Redskins had decided they wanted Murphy to transition from his outside linebacker position to defensive end.
In geographical reality, Murphy was moving roughly five feet on the field from where he normally lined up as an outside linebacker during his first two NFL seasons, but his training and diet had to completely change. Murphy needed to gain weight, and quickly, as the defensive end position requires more mass and strength to help stop the opposing run offense.
Murphy, who told his story on his personal website early last year, wrote that because the Redskins hadn’t told him about this plan earlier in the offseason, he immediately jumped into a brand new workout and diet plan. As a gym rat, Murphy didn’t have any problem with tackling new workouts that included, “more weight and less repetitions,” to prepare for the powerful offensive linemen of the NFL.
However, his transition to a new diet wasn’t as smooth.
“I hate eating so that was definitely harder, having to stuff your face and always worry about what you’re going to eat when you go somewhere and your calorie count and everything like that,” Murphy said. “So that’s a lot harder to manage.”
Murphy, who admitted that he’s a picky eater, said there were some “pretty filthy-tasting” things that he had to put down.
“Yogurt drinks with spinach and protein powder that you’re mixing up with two different types of protein powder so you just kind of get these thick clumpy green shakes that aren’t always the most appetizing,” Murphy recalled of his worst meals.
Check out behind the scenes images from Defensive End, Trent Murphy's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
It may not have tasted good, but Murphy was doing his best to gain weight without eating poorly. Gaining weight, of course, isn’t hard. Eating unhealthy foods and laying around will add the pounds quickly. But in Murphy’s case, he needed to add, “good weight.”
Carmen Spencer RN, the clinical program coordinator with Inova’s Weight Loss Services, says that when trying to gain weight the focus should be on, “increasing portion size of healthy meals and healthy fats and proteins.”
“If you try to gain weight by eating unhealthy foods you’re going to gain fat mass versus muscle mass,” Spencer continued. “There’s always that tendency when someone has to gain weight for a position to eat junk food instead of choosing healthy options.”
So About That Position Switch…Following a summer of disciplined eating and training, Murphy arrived at camp with 25 added pounds in preparation for his new role. However, the Redskins plans changed, as many plans do for NFL teams when injuries strike. Standout pass rusher Junior Galette tore his Achilles, putting him on the shelf for the season.
Instead of having too many good outside linebackers, which forced Murphy’s move in the first place, the Redskins’ depth at the position was now thin. Murphy once again had a conversation with the coaches, who wanted Murphy to switch on and off working with the defensive linemen and outside linebackers. But after only a couple practices doing that, the Redskins ultimately moved Murphy back to outside linebacker.
“It was pretty tough because you go into the offseason with one mindset and then you have to change, stop running and trying to put on weight and then you make the switch back so then you kind of change up your diet again,” a willing Murphy said. “That’s kind of the business, so it’s not a big deal.”
Ironically, Murphy had already begun losing weight, but by nothing he had done purposefully. He was quarantined in his hotel room for 24 hours at one point due to a bad case of strep throat. He lost 10 pounds.
“There are rumors going around that they planted strep throat because they knew I was changing positions,” Murphy joked in his blog. “If I catch something else and they move me to defensive back, I’ll know there’s something fishy going on around here.”
Just like gaining the weight quickly, losing would have been tough for Murphy, too, who was encouraged to keep most of his weight after his bout with strep throat. In his blog, Murphy noted that, “there are guys across the league who play this position at 280 pounds and they’re a little shorter than me, so you can definitely be a little bigger.”
“With rapid weight loss, it’s important to have medical supervision, because there’s always the risk of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and gallstones as well. Malnutrition is also a risk because some people think they can just stop eating or do a crash diet,” Spencer said regarding issues that many people have with trying to lose weight. “The recommendations for weight loss are generally one to two pounds a week, anything more than that is considered rapid weight loss. As a reference one pound is equal to about 3500 calories, to make that adjustment would be require decreasing calories by about 500 a day or exercising the equivalent.”
All’s Well That Ends WellMaybe Murphy was just being optimistic, but he envisioned a strong 2016 season when he wrote in early August about his eventful offseason.
“In the end, the weight I gained to play on the line should actually help me,” Murphy wrote.
He was right. It took Murphy just four games to set a new career high in sacks. After recording six total sacks in his first two seasons, Murphy recorded eight takedowns of the quarterback in the first 13 games of this season.
“I wasn’t really there that long,” Murphy said of his cameo at defensive end. “I’ve been an outside backer almost my whole career and I was at end for like five, six weeks. It just kind of confirmed that leverage and pad level, hand placement is the most powerful tool, even being a smaller guy having to play inside.”
Between Murphy and Kerrigan, the Redskins are one of only two teams to have a pair of players with at least eight sacks. The duo effectively ended a Week 14 win over the Eagles as Kerrigan stripped quarterback Carson Wentz and Murphy – moving quickly for a guy who was going to play defensive line at one point – ran over and picked up the loose ball.
“Playing for this franchise, I’m never short of motivation,” Murphy finished his blog post. “I’m super thankful for everyone’s support, and all the love and support that fans have shown on social media and at camp. I’m eager for the season to begin and to do everything I can to help us win.”
Back in his accustomed outside linebacker spot, Murphy has done just that.
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