Holiday Break A Double-Edged Sword

The good news for the Ohio State football team is that its members now have a few days off to celebrate the holiday and clear their mind before the Fiesta Bowl. The bad news is they have to stay sharp both mentally and physically. How the Buckeyes balance those truths might go a long way in determining their success come Jan. 5.

Today, the Ohio State football team hits the road – for home.

Team members will reconvene in Arizona the afternoon of Dec. 29 and then begin preparing for the Jan. 5 Fiesta Bowl, but until then, the Buckeyes – much like their fans – will be spending the holiday season with their families.

While home, the Buckeye players will have to reach a delicate balance of enjoying themselves – and holiday food – while staying ready for the bowl game against No. 3 Texas.

With that in mind, the players are sent home with a specific workout plan provided by the team's strength and conditioning coaches. Just how many partake in those workouts is up for debate.

"Our strength guys send them home with a suggested running routine and suggested lifts," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said, "and if I had to bet, we'd probably get a 12 percent completion of that."

At that, Tressel broke into a knowing laugh.

"Just like I take a whole bunch of film home with me and I end up watching about 15 minutes of it," he added. "All of a sudden when you're with family, that's what it's about, and you get a chance to relax or maybe sleep in, whatever they do. They might even stay out later than I do, I don't know."

As it turns out, 12 percent might be a little bit of an understatement, if Tressel's charges are to be believed.

After all, there are players like workout warrior Kurt Coleman, who said he plans to be on top of his fitness during the time off.

"For me, I'm a junkie with working out," Coleman said. "I feel like if I'm not working out, I'm not doing something right. For me, whenever they give us a break, I always end up telling myself I need to get some rest, but it never works out that way."

Coleman looked beside him at fellow starting safety Anderson Russell, who was scoffing as Coleman described his marriage to holiday workouts.

"Then I call this guy up, and he's like, ‘Dude, just chill,' " Coleman said.

When the focus turned to Russell, he admitted that he was on the other end of the spectrum.

"You can't tell Coach this, but I'm probably going to be relaxing," Russell said. "I'm probably going to fall in that 88 percent. I'm playing. I'm going to be doing a little something."

Most players who were surveyed seem to fall between the two poles in Coleman and Russell. They will do their part to stay ready for game action, even if they aren't following protocol to the letter.

"Twelve percent might do the whole warm-up all the way down to the wind-down and all that," receiver Brian Robiskie said. "But as far as the lifting, I think a lot more guys do the lifting. I think he might have been talking about the whole stretching and all the pre-workout stuff. That might be too much."

After all, there are plenty of other things to do on holiday break than stretch. The players, who have been shackled to Columbus for all but one weekend since early August, must catch up with family and friends as well as celebrate the holiday season. Workouts are just a part of the balance that must be struck; luckily time management is a skill most players have.

"For a lot of guys, the chance to get out of here and go home and spend time with their family, they find it hard to get a workout in," linebacker Marcus Freeman said. "But at the same time these guys aren't putting football on the backburner when they go home. I know each and every guy will be ready to play."

Ideally, the players will be able to stay in shape yet still arrive in the desert with a fresh mind and renewed sense of purpose.

"Their time off needs to be their family time," Tressel said. "It needs to be getting a little bit away from football."

There will be plenty of football to be had once the Buckeyes arrive in the desert one week before the Fiesta Bowl.

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