Crawford Finds Ways to Combat D-Line Demands

David Boclair

The line of scrimmage is not merely a matter of hand-to-hand combat. It’s also about being face-to-face with your opponent.

At least that is what defensive lineman Jack Crawford has deduced over the course of an eight-year NFL career that has included stints with three different teams.

His fourth will be the Tennessee Titans, who formally announced the addition of the 31-year-old defensive end Wednesday. The sides agreed to terms a little more than a week ago.

Crawford, who has 93 games of NFL experience, has settled into a training regimen that includes mixed martial arts (MMA). His belief is that the mix of grappling, boxing and other combat skills provides an edge when he lines up a yard away from an opposing guard or tackle.

“A lot of people who play this game are not comfortable when people are right in their face,” Crawford told NFL.com at the start of last season. “That's their weakness. The more comfortable you can be with that, the more success you are going to have. MMA just helps reinforce that.

“It also helps with small muscles that we don't train. We bench press, we squat, we do a lot of lifting and training for big muscles but there are some small muscles that you don't work. It also helps with your hand strength, balance and when you are fighting with another person.”

Crawford spent the past three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Before that, he was with the Dallas Cowboys for three years and the Oakland Raiders for two. He has been primarily a backup at each stop, although he has started as many as 11 games in a season. He has 16 career sacks, including a career-high six in 2018.

A native of London, England who played college football at Penn State, he entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick by the Raiders in 2012.

MMA training is not the only habit he picked up along the way.

“Since I arrived at the Falcons, I've realized how much I need to take care of my body,” Crawford said. “Some of the injuries I had earlier in my career were a result of me not taking my recovery seriously enough. So now on Tuesdays I'll go for acupuncture, a Pilates class and flotation therapy, which is like being in a float tank. I'll also go and see a chiropractor.

“I've felt my body has been a lot better for it over the last few years.”

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