For many in the NFL world, weekdays in July are simply another day. A day lost to the slow dragging of the offseason as training camp arrives just over the horizon. A day meant for rest and relaxation ahead of a grueling period of training camp and the regular-season
But not at Rise and Grind. Not for several Jacksonville Jaguars veterans such as Josh Allen, Dawuane Smoot, Adam Gotsis, and A.J. Cann.
"From OTAs to now, we kind of build that camaraderie. We are building that time together, putting that time in. And we push each other every single day. If I see Adam is going hard, I'm gonna go hard. If I see that Josh is going hard I am going to try to go harder," Smoot told Jaguar Report this week during a session at the Rise and Grind gym in Orange Park.
"We just push each other. But we're trying to create is an environment for all the Jags to be able to come here in the offseason, you know, for us all to work together. Not a lot of places out here in Jacksonville do so, but Rise and Grind is that place. I'm just trying to build that here, build as much as we can. I'm gonna be here. Josh is gonna be here. Adam is gonna be here, whoever want it, let's get it."
Rise and Grind is a facility roughly 20 miles from TIAA Bank Field, a gym that Jason Smith has built from the ground up over the last several years to be a temple for all athletes to improve. A gym that several Jaguars now call home, with others such as Jawaan Taylor, Lerentee McCray and former Jaguars defensive tackle Eli Ankou also calling the gym home at one point or another.
Smith caters his intense workouts to every player and athlete he trains, tracking their progress meticulously and ensuring every player is on their own program build for their own specific strengths and weaknesses. Everything at Rise and Grind has a purpose, and for Smith, that purpose is to help players like Allen, Smoot, Gotsis, and Cann reach their potential.
"Everybody has their own thing they want to work on. And usually it's more explosion, more speed, trying to step off the ball. So we just try to get everybody prepared individually. So I generate a plan here by the individual to kind of get them prepared for the season," Smith told Jaguar Report this week.
"We just do a lot of stuff differently than they normally would do, you know, footwork, speed work, but it's just trying to help them maximize their potential and just push them. ... everybody has a different way of training. There's no right or wrong way. But, you know, when you are around the guys, you kind of get to learn what their strengths and their weaknesses are and what they want to do and what they want to work on."
As Smith says, there is no right or wrong way to cater his workouts to his athletes. But there is a right way to attack the day every time a player sets foot into his gym. Through Rise and Grind, Smith beckons the very best out of his athletes because he pushes them to their limits without letting up.
From youth ages to high school athletes to college to professionals, Smith trains them all under one roof. Because when one walks into Rise and Grind, they are not any different than the man, woman, boy, or girl working near them. They are there simply to work.
"So these guys, where you know everybody is looking at them like superstars and stuff, to me, they are regular human beings. You treat them like human beings and they respect that man and you know they come here, I'm not gonna -- they are going to do the work," Smith said.
"It is constantly getting pushed. Ain't no kissing butt because you're Josh Allen or whoever you are, you know, we work. And it's not meant for everybody, you know, everybody can't handle this. This type of work is not meant for everybody."
It is a sentiment that Allen, Smoot and Gotsis all agree with. From drill to drill, rep to rep, lift to lift, Smith is barking encouragement at all he trains with. He is pushing them to be better than they were the day before, a level of push that some may not embrace during slow periods like mid-July.
But it is that push that the Jaguars veterans crave. It is that push that keeps them returning to Rise and Grind time and time again, working with each other and even competing against one another.
"I feel like every workout you leave here knowing that you got better, and knowing that you are about to sit in that car for like, 10-15 minutes to kind of contemplate like, 'Damn, I just worked my ass off.'But that's the grind you want to get with Jason man," Allen told Jaguar Report.
"He switches it up. He is just real specific. He knows what you need to work on and he's just smart. Like, just taking care of your body. So you know, that's why I love working with Jason.
"I know, every week, every day I am coming in here I'm gonna do something specific to what I need. And I'm gonna continue to grow. Smoot, we're all different players, we all play different. But we play the same position. But he knows that and he's gonna train our body differently to what we are and what we do best. So that's what I respect. And that is what I love about coming here and working with Jason."
As Smith explains, the vindication he feels for doing his part comes from seeing those he trains tangibly improve. From seeing them not just tired and exhausted from giving it all they have in a workout, but for continuing to come back time and time again after doing so.
"Oh, man. It's not like no other. We train different. The grind, the grind is just different in here, man, anybody that comes in here, you know, these guys have been training everywhere, forever. And then they come to the grind and it's just different man. These guys leave out of here and they are just like, 'oh my god' like they're beat," Smith said.
"But the work we put in and it shows. We don't want to do anything that doesn't show. So you know, if you do something, right, the guys keep coming back. They come back for a reason. The goal is just to keep pushing these guys to maximize their potential in their positions, you know, so they constantly come back.
Perhaps the best example of this is Smoot, who has worked with Smith for over two years now. Before the two began training together, Smoot had zero career sacks. In the last two years, the former third-round pick is second on the team in sacks with 11.5 (behind only Allen's 13.5), earning him a new deal with the Jaguars this offseason.
Smith, Smoot says, watched Smoot's tape and went over the areas he needed to improve early in their relationship. A big focus was on Smoot's footwork, first-step, and explosion, all areas in which Smoot feels like he has grown the last two years.
"He studies you. He's like a technician. He just studies everything and caters the workout to whatever you need. So I have done got better last two years I've been with him so it's gonna keep on going," Smoot told Jaguar Report.
The important thing Smith and the Jaguars veterans harp on is the fact that everything they do in Rise and Grind has a purpose. Whether it is their strength work, working on their movement skills or get-off ability, or their overall lower-body explosion, every facet of every workout is purpose-driven. In short, there is no freestyling.
Since every workout and every drill is catered to the athlete with extreme specificity, they never feel as if they are doing something that won't translate to the field and help them maximize their potential. This is something that is clear as day to a veteran like Gotsis, who credits Rise and Grind and Smith for getting him into some of the best shape of his entire career.
"I say, coming in here, man, you just -- he's developing us to be football players. You know, it's not just in here banging weights. It's not just in here moving. But it's that combination and keeping things new and fresh. And, you know, I think he's always saying he's always looking around, looking at what other people are doing. And, you know creating. He's like a mastermind," Gotsis said.
"He's creating his own plan and taking bits and pieces from everyone's schedule and catering it to what he's got here. And I think when you do that, and, you know, you can work with your guys and alter the workouts to cater to what they need. So you know, for pass rushers, he can do a bit more speed, big guys, it might be a bit more power base, but, you know, he keeps it fresh. He keeps it interesting. And, you know, I think in terms of development, you know, this is probably the best shape I've been in heading into a season."
With a little over a week before training camp starts, the Jaguars veterans know that time is ticking on the 2021 season. Soon, the pads and helmets will come on and they will go to battle alongside one another as they attempt to use what they learned at Rise and Grind to the football field.
But until then, Rise and Grind will continue to be where their tools are sharpened and their crafts are mastered. They have built an environment of togetherness, hard work and competition at Rise and Grind, an environment they thrive in. An environment Smith believes will help them have a special season.
"I'm expecting, [on the] defensive line, I am expecting Smoot and Josh to go crazy," Smith said.
"I think it's going to be their best year. Both of them. And that's big for Josh because you know, Josh came in like a wrecking ball. But I think it's going to be even better this year. They want to win. They want to win ... and they believe in the coaches. They believe in everything that's going around, so I know these guys wanna win."