COLUMBUS After practice yesterday morning, Jim Tressel sent his football team home, scattering the Buckeyes across the U.S. map for five days of what he hopes will be just rest and relaxation.
As they departed for Florida, New Jersey, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Georgia and every corner and cranny of Ohio, the Ohio State players got their marching orders as far as the conditioning work they will need to do over the break, and the never-so-subtle reminders about limiting the Christmas cheer to time spent with family.
We re in pretty good shape, and the week off will help them, Tressel said as he laid out the itinerary for the Buckeyes preparation for their Jan. 5 Fiesta Bowl date with No. 3 Texas in Arizona. So, until the phone rings which in my world things are based upon when the phone rings we re doing okay.
Tressel wants his troops to utilize the running and weight-lifting routines the Ohio State strength coaches have sent home with each player, but he is also realistic about just how much work they will get done at home for the holiday.
Their time off needs to be their family time, and it needs to be getting a little bit away from football, Tressel said. We d like them [to follow the workout routines], and if I had to bet, we d probably get a 12 percent completion of that. But we want them to get away, yet let them know that we can t do anything to go backwards and we want to hit the bowl site rested.
The Buckeyes will reconvene in Phoenix on Dec. 29, and Tressel admitted that he will arrive at the bowl site wishing he had accomplished more over the Christmas break, but not regretting how he spent the time.
I take a whole bunch of film home with me and I end up watching about 15 minutes of it because all of a sudden when you re with family, that s what it s about, Tressel said. And you get a chance to relax or maybe sleep in. And whatever the players do they might even stay out later than I do, I don t know.
Ohio State senior tight end Rory Nicol, who heads home to Beaver, Pa. for Christmas, said he will follow the workout plan, and get in some quality time with family.
I have a hard time not doing anything. I am kind of a gym rat, Nicol said. I will go home and work out, but it will be nice to get back with my full family at home. A lot of times they make it to games, but you only see them so quick. I m excited for us to all be together for Christmas, which is special.
Senior defensive back Malcom Jenkins, who is from Piscataway, N.J., confessed that he won t follow the recommended routines.
We get suggested workouts, but I know I don t do them, Jenkins said. I might play my Wii and try to get a workout in that way, but that s about it. Most of the time, we practice hard enough here to stay in shape. We ve only got a couple of days off, so most of the guys spend it enjoying time with their families.
Junior defensive back Kurt Coleman laughed at coach Tressel s assessment of how few of the Buckeyes will put in the workout time over Christmas.
I wouldn t say 12 percent I think a lot more guys are going to get after it. I d say it s more around 80 percent, Coleman said. For me, I m a junkie with working out. 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.
Nicol said that despite the portion of Tressel s directive that says to get away from football and enjoy Christmas, the Longhorns will be with him for the holiday.
It would be hard for me to sit here and say I don t think about the game, because the game is still, obviously, very important, Nicol said. It s still in the back of your mind, and you just get a couple days to recharge your battery.
Contact Matt Markey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.