Emmanuel Sanders uses JUGS Machine in backyard to stay sharp
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Pro Bowl receiver Emmanuel Sanders considers it the best $2,200 he's ever spent.
The Denver Broncos' speedster is following up his first Pro Bowl season with another big year despite a spate of ailments. He credits some of that to the offseason work he put in at his Houston home, where his wife feeds him footballs before breakfast on the JUGS Machine in his backyard.
''At my position, the most important thing is catching a football, so why wouldn't I work on that?'' said Sanders, whose four TD grabs lead the Broncos (8-2) heading into their Sunday night showdown against the unbeaten New England Patriots (10-0).
''In the offseason, I would probably catch 100 to 200 balls a day,'' Sanders said. ''Catch them all different type of ways. Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning I'd have my wife shoot me a couple balls. I just like catching passes.''
Every NFL team has the JUGS machines at their facilities to save quarterbacks' arms and kickers' legs and ensure accuracy when working on offensive, defensive and special teams drills.
Players at skill positions - receivers, running backs, tight ends, defensive backs and returners - especially benefit from the devices, which evolved from the baseball one-arm action lever-pitching contraptions of the 1970s to the advanced machines where footballs are fed between two white tires spinning at different speeds.
Several NFL players have them at their offseason homes, including Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Sanders, who sets his machine at 30 mph and lines up 20 yards away.
''I treat it like games, so I'll say I'm catching a 5-yard out, I'm catching an 18-yard dig. I'm catching a slant now. I just try to get it the same eye level as if I was running a route, how I'm going to catch it in the game,'' Sanders said. ''I'll have my back turned and when I hear the JUGS machine go off, I'll turn and try to locate the ball.''
Sometimes, he dons his gloves and does the one-handed grabs you see on commercials ''just to have fun.''
Tennessee Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who played 13 seasons in the NFL, said every receiver should have a throwing machine in his backyard like Sanders.
''Absolutely. It's repetition. The road to success is paved with repetition. The more you do it, the more it becomes like second nature to your body,'' Jefferson said. ''... It's called habit-forming muscle memorization. You're training your body to do it.''
Some Major League Baseball players have pitching machines at their homes, but the batting cages, netting and everything else that goes with it can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The football machines from JUGS, the Oregon-based industry leader that was founded in 1971, run between $2,200 and $2,600 and are endorsed by Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.
In a testimonial on the company's website, Carter says: ''It's hard to practice at an elite level if you can't get consistent balls and that's what the JUGS Machine does for you.''
Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas said he's thought of getting a JUGS Machine next offseason.
''Yes, I have,'' he said. ''You know, it's a tax write-off.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed. Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton