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Giants' Young Edge Rushers Turn to MMA to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

New York Giants edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines have begun incorporating MMA training to improve their hand-eye coordination.

New York Giants edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines have channeled their inner Bruce Lee this offseason.

With high expectations surrounding this duo heading into the 2021 season, Giants defensive line coach Sean Spencer, better known as “Coach Chaos,” paired his young pass rushers with mixed martial arts (MMA) trainer Bruce Lombard of MMAFx.

Lombard is based in State College, Pennsylvania, near Penn State University. He initially connected with former Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, who is now in the same role with the Giants.

According to Lombard, Fitzgerald gave him his first shot in working with the players, which helped him connect with Coach Spencer.

When Spencer was at PSU, he and Lombard would often travel together to train players, incorporating defensive line drills and handwork.

Once Spencer and Fitzgerald were hired to join Joe Judge’s Giants coaching staff, they recommended Lombard to a few players, but that connection had to be put on hold due to the global pandemic.

But as restrictions begin to ease thanks to vaccine rollouts, athletes have started reaching out to resources such as Lombard, who also works at an affiliate gym in Wall Township, New Jersey.

Lombard’s goal is to make the players’ hands quicker and better by getting their timing right. They also work on improving their hand-eye coordination, focusing on the non-dominant hand.

“I’m not a pass rush expert, but I understand and know it,” Lombard told Giants Country by phone.

“I’m a hand and martial arts expert, and I use something called Wing Chun invented by Bruce Lee. If you watch any Bruce Lee movie, he’s using his hands to mobilize, intercept and track. The art of boxing, wrestling, and Wing Chun are the three main things I use to implement this program.

“It’s almost like I’m teaching guys how to dance with their hands,” Lombard added. “Everyone is doing foot drills and strength training in football, but not many people are working on hand training.”

Admittedly, Carter did not know much about the boxing and MMA world. But according to Lombard, he has proved to be a fast learner.

“He didn’t really know what he was doing,” said Lombard. “A guy like him picks it up quicker as a pro athlete. But It’s a very slow process because there are a lot of articulate motions.”

Carter, who is entering his fourth season in the NFL, saw his season cut short in 2020 after blowing out his Achilles tendon in Week 5.

Well on the road to recovery--Carter was a surprise participant in the team's OTAs and mandatory minicamp--the 25-year-old Carter has impressed Lombard with his commitment to the program.

“He’s really coachable and has lots of energy, said Lombard. “We could be doing 6-7 hours a weekend of training, which not many can handle, but he can. He’s one of the best I’ve ever had, and that’s because he committed to it. And it’s all starting to show.”

“When you talk about pass rushing, it’s about eyes, hands and feet,” added Lombard. “He already had the speed and the footwork, now I’m just helping him with his hand-eye coordination and his hand speed and timing, so I think it’s going to help him tremendously.”

Although Ximines is a bit newer to the training, Lombard believes this type of training will help Ximines, who posted 4.5 sacks and five tackles for loss during his rookie campaign, strengthen his ligaments coming off season-ending shoulder surgery.

“This is ideal for him because it is a tight in quarter type of training,” said Lombard. “Hopefully for Oshane, this will help him build up shoulder strength. We are basically developing boxing shoulders, which helps gain endurance in the ligaments.”

The Giants have added several resources to their cache of pass rushers, but they would love for nothing more than to see Carter pick up where he left off before his injury and for Ximines to come into his own as an NFL edge rusher. 

“If Lorenzo and Oshane do this type of training daily, which is our goal, they will be at the highest level of anyone I’ve ever trained,” said Lombard.

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