McBriar Nearly Healthy

IRVING, Tex. - As the offseason rolls into preseason, as mini-camps end and training camp looms, much is made about the offseason regimen through which different players put themselves.

Some lift extensively, hoping to add bulk and much-needed strength, while others start to eat better food and increase their cardiovascular workouts in an effort to get leaner, to improve speed and stamina.

So what does a punter do in the offseason?

He doesn't need to be particularly fast, because if he's chasing anyone, that means the opposing team is on the verge of returning a punt for a touchdown. He also doesn't need to bulk up; teams don't want their punters laying out heavy hits any more than they want them to chase return men all over the field.

But according to veteran Dallas punter Mat McBriar, the idea that punters do nothing but play golf (which, admittedly, he'll do on a July trip to Pebble Beach) is inaccurate.

"I allow myself a nice break after the season, but we work like everyone else," McBriar said. "Remember, this is the second straight offseason when I'm coming off surgery, so I had work to do."

Last offseason, McBriar was recovering from the surgery to fix an ankle injury suffered in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. This year, he had arthroscopic surgery in the offseason to clean out his right (kicking) knee.

"My goals during the offseason were to increase my leg strength, my leg speed, my flexibility and my core strength," he said.

McBriar joined his teammates to work out with the Cowboys' strength and conditioning staff throughout the offseason.

"We pretty much do the same lifting as most of the other guys," he said. "I have some things I do that stray off from what the rest of the guys do, but for the most part, we do a lot of the same workouts."

McBriar, who turns 31 in July, admitted that his offseason routine has changed the longer he has been in the NFL.

"I do like to enjoy myself after the season ends," he said, "but it's not as easy to get back into shape as you get older. I know I'm not in my 40s, but at 30, I can tell that I don't feel the way I did when I was 25, either."

McBriar said he is not quite 100 percent recovered from his knee surgery, but is optimistic he soon will be.

"I still have a little way to go," he said. "But I'm hitting the ball pretty good. I lifted harder this offseason, so I'm getting more explosion with the ball."

In addition to working his way back from injury for the second time in as many years, McBriar also is in the unenviable position of helping a young player, rookie punter Delbert Alvarado, who is in camp essentially to try to take McBriar's job.

"He's got a lot of potential," McBriar said of Alvarado. "He's a good athlete with a quick leg, a strong leg. He has the ability to kick field goals, kick off and punt, so he has more variety than I do.

"He's a young guy, so this is a great learning experience for him. I remember when I was that young — I felt like I was really out of my comfort zone, and I guess he is, too. But he has done really well, and I'm trying to help him and share what I know. I'm not ready for him to take my job, but I'm trying to be as encouraging as I can."

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