Conditioned for Strength

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At this time last year, Ravens strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki had a lot to learn about his players.

He had been with the team for less than two months and was tasked with the building an offseason program that would get nearly 80 men in shape for the rigors minicamps, training camp and the season.

This year, things have been a little different.

Mainly, Rogucki has a strong foundation of information that only a full year of presiding over the weight room can bring.

As players start to return to Ravens headquarters and begin their offseason training, Rogucki knows exactly where he wants to begin with each player.

He has compiled a file cabinet full of notes on every Raven regarding optimum height and weight, body mass index, and how much they can lift. Marked with red and black pens, all the detailed information assists in monitoring the progress of the team from the time he arrived.

"Last year, it was a guesstimate for the most part," said Rogucki, who has been in the NFL for 20 years and previously served as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2006-07. "Now, we've trained them through an entire year, the offseason, through the summer camps, through the regular season. That's critical. That weight is their best effort, and from that, we determine where we want them to start."

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Which, in turn, helps maximize his time.

"It's going to run more efficient," he continued. "We have a handle on where we want them at this point, and that puts us ahead of the game."

The most Ravens of any day since the season ended with a loss in the AFC Championship showed up in Owings Mills, Md., Monday and attacked the free weights and machines.

That included quarterback Joe Flacco and linebacker Tavares Gooden, both of whom are entering their second seasons with Rogucki.

Gooden, whose rookie campaign was ended early when a hip injury landed him on Injured Reserve in Week 6, was especially excited to be back with his teammates.

"I'm glad to be here," said Gooden, who is now slated to start at linebacker after Bart Scott signed with the New York Jets via free agency. "It's an impressive turnout. Coming off a good season, we know what we have to get done.

"We're all eager to show that last year wasn't a fluke."

As banged up as the Ravens were during their march through the playoffs - ending their year with 19 players on Injured Reserve, second-most in the league - training in the offseason is key.

Rogucki has his program tailor made to prevent against injuries.

He has the players run four times a week, with heavy stints scheduled for Monday and Wednesday and shorter, skill-specific runs Tuesday and Thursday.

The Ravens also will lift each day, taking advantage of the diverse equipment in the weight room, such as the curiously-shaped kettlebells that now sit in racks aligned down the middle of the room.

There are also many new machines brought in specifically to take pressure off backs and joints, such as the Pendulum Seated Squat, which allows the player to do a leg press while laying on their back instead of hoisting a weighted bar.

"It's about functional lifting," said assistant strength and conditioning coach John "Mother" Dunn, a 24-year coaching veteran. "The kettlebells are a great way to incorporate hip and leg explosion without as much stress on the spine, in my opinion.

"We brought in heavy weighted balls players can use in different ways to generate force from different angles. We're trying to create a program that is better applicable to the field."

Of course, wins are why so much time and concentration is devoted to offseason training programs around the NFL.

Now, after an entire season with their charges, Rogucki and Dunn are thankful they have a head start.

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