It’s not accurate to say Buddy Morris eats, sleeps and breathes physical preparation, because these days he cannot sleep.
Morris was hired as the Cardinals’ new strength and conditioning coach by old pal Bruce Arians on March 4, and he arrived in Arizona last week ready for action. There is a problem. Players cannot begin their offseason workout program with coaches until April 21, per the rules of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.
While some people settling into a new job might appreciate the transition period, it’s been torture on the hyperactive Morris.
“When Bruce first called me, I didn’t sleep for three days,” Morris said. “And I haven’t really slept well since I’ve been here. It’s not because I’m not tired. It’s because I’m excited. I want to see how they move. I want to see how they run. I want to see everything.”
Morris is a training lifer. He can’t go more than 20 minutes without jotting down an idea to be revisited. His cell
“Twenty-four hours a day, he’s just a non-stop rolling ball of butcher knives,” Arians said. “He loves what he does. I’ve met a lot of strength coaches, but he loves what he does.”
Morris must have been giddy when the Cardinals announced the signing of free agent
“It didn’t take more than 30 seconds to get into a full-out conversation about muscle physiology and all that stuff,” Veldheer said.
Morris is a voracious consumer of any knowledge pertaining to his profession. While he readily admits the impossibility of mastering his craft due to the steady stream of new information, it doesn’t stop him from trying.
“Information doubles every 18 months in this country,” Morris said. “I’ve never met anybody who knows everything there is to know about the human body. I’ve been to live surgeries, cadaver labs, I’ve been all over the world, studying and asking questions. All training, all programs work for only so long. Nothing works forever.”
So Morris aims to stay on the cutting edge of a profession which waits for no one. The Cardinals’ training facility has been his workplace for only a short period of time, but at its ground floor is a weight room, which is his domain.
Morris coached for the Cleveland Browns from 2002 to 2005, and it was there he met Arians. They developed a friendship, and soon he had Arians dragging a sled multiple times a week to get in shape. (This has been a
“He actually tried to teach me how to golf once, and that lasted, oh, about five minutes,” Morris said. “We used to have a golf tournament with the Cleveland Browns and Bruce grabbed me and said, ‘Come on, I’ll teach you how to golf.’ So we’re at the driving range and after about five minutes he said, ‘Go back to the weight room.’”
Morris began his career working for the University of Pittsburgh from 1980-89 and returned for two more stints. He has also worked for the University of Buffalo.
His goal here is to outfit every Cardinals player with a GPS system which tracks their heart rate, speed and acceleration so he knows how each person adapts to stress. He leans on Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion as his guiding principles, and while some of his techniques may be complicated, at the root of them, he has one goal.
“Can I keep Tom (Reed), our trainer, bored?” Morris said. “From my perspective, we can do all this stuff to improve their physical performance – bigger, stronger, faster, blah, blah, blah – but the bottom line is, can we keep them from injuries so they can play every weekend? That’s where my payoff is.”
The Cardinals kept Pete Alosi as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. But Morris brought with him speed coach Roger Kingdom, a two-time gold medalist and former world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles. Kingdom spent the past 10 years coaching track at Division II California University of Pennsylvania.
“You don’t take a two-time former gold medalist and a world record holder and not use him for his knowledge and his experience,” Morris said. “The guy’s been training his whole life. He knows the ins and outs of speed. He’s talked to some of the greatest speed coaches in the world. Why not use his knowledge?”
Kingdom played college football at Pittsburgh before transitioning to track. He was self-coached throughout, and like Morris, has tapped the knowledge base of several prominent figures in his sport. He will spend most of his time with the skill players, developing their speed and working on the mechanics of running.
“The most important thing is to have these athletes be more efficient -- that is the bottom line,” Kingdom said. “I’m so excited to get started with them because these kids don’t know how to run. To see them finally gain the concept of how to run, and all of a sudden they know they can always give more than what they think they have, that will be the exciting part. Once they learn that, then you know they’ll perform better on the field.”
Between Morris, Kingdom and Alosi, the Cardinals believe their weight room staff is elite, and the newcomers are ecstatic to be on board.
“I was talking to my wife and she said, ‘We were just looking for a house across town, not across the country,’” Kingdom said. “I had just moved to Orlando six months ago. But all of a sudden it’s like, OK. And now I’m so excited I’m only sleeping four hours a night. When you walk in here, you feel right at home. When we talk, it feels like we’ve been doing this for years.”
Morris, who had been icing his arm and reading a magazine article, looked up as Kingdom finished his thought.
“Well,” he said, “we have been doing this for years. We’re getting old.”
The two shared a laugh, and soon – but not soon enough for their liking – they’ll be putting all that knowledge to use.