Longwell's Offseason Paying Dividends

So far, the results of Ryan Longwell's intense offseason workouts alongside another sports superstar have been impressive. See how the Minnesota Vikings kicker changed his routine after a decade in the league and what he had to say about the training.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but for one of the Vikings oldest dogs – kicker Ryan Longwell – you apparently can.

Longwell is in his 11th season – the time when many veteran kickers start to see a dramatic decline in their kicking distance. While Longwell has enjoyed a successful 10-year career, he felt he was at a crossroads of his career at the end of last season and decided he was going to make a change. A drastic change.

"The bottom line is that, after 11 years around the league, you're not going to find a magic potion that adds 10 yards to your kicks," Longwell said. "At the end of last season, I asked myself what I could do to make myself better. I've had a lot of success and there is always some reluctance to change, but I decided to totally change my approach and went back to what I did in college and incorporated some new things."

For all of his NFL career, Longwell's offseason workout regimen included sprints and low-rep/high strength weightlifting to build his muscles and keep his stamina. This year, he threw that out and went to a new approach at a training facility near his home in Florida. His new regimen included distance running, plyometrics, endurance work, kick boxing and yoga to strengthen other muscles and create a new workout atmosphere.

Perhaps even more daunting than changing what has been so successful for Longwell for so long was who was next to him as one of his training partners – golf superstar Tiger Woods. Woods, who also has a home in Florida, is one of about 20 people who go through the offseason workout regimen and watching an athlete at the top of his game working as hard as Woods did every day gave Longwell even more respect for him.

"Just watching him over the last couple of years – how hard he trains, how he doesn't accept less than his top effort, how long he runs even when it's on the week of a tournament – is a amazing," Longwell said. "If he's the best in the world at what he does and works so hard get better, I figured what's to say that I can't try to get better as well."

Longwell played golf occasionally over the offseason with Woods and said that, even in a leisurely game, "he's pretty intimidating. But he sees the similarity in what he and Tiger both do. The idea of their workout regimen is to find effortless strength – whether it be in whipping a golf club at high speed or kicking a football.

The changes came almost immediately after the conclusion of the 2006 season, as his motivation to try something new also disrupted his usual year-end routine.

"Typically, I would take a month or so off after the season before I started working out again," Longwell said. "This year, I started some distance running about a week after the season to build up a base of endurance and began the more strenuous workouts shortly after that."

While it was impossible not to notice Woods, one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, when he was working out, Longwell was pretty anonymous. He didn't feel obligated to tell the others in the workouts that he was a NFL football player. In fact, he shied away from it.

"I'm not even sure most of the guys even knew that I'm a football player," Longwell said. "That impression doesn't immediately jump out at you when you look at me. I tried to pretty much just fly under the radar for most of the time there."

The result has been impressive to say the least. Longwell's kickoffs have consistently traveled inside the 5-yard line and he has added distance to his field goals. In last week's opener, he hit a 49-yard field goal that had 10 yards to spare and special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said his kickoffs have not only been longer, but he's added two-tenths of a second of hang time on average. He hopes to get more long opportunities for points during the season and believes he has earned the confidence of the coaching staff to let him try longer field goals this year.

Longwell is extremely pleased with the results and hopes it will be successful long-term and add years to his career. But, as he notes, September is not the time to gauge how well things are going.

"Right now, I feel as good as I have in years," Longwell said. "I feel better kicking the ball and getting more distance. But, the real test will come in November and December. That is when we'll now how successful the new regimen has worked out, but I'm feeling really good about it."

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