On any given Sunday, Hjalte Froholdt can be seen barking out commands to the offensive line, pointing out different coverages and schemes that an opposing defense is presenting. Those are the challenges that are visible.
Once a week and before every game, the Cardinals center is working on obstacles that can't be seen.
"I didn't really get into the mental game until pretty much a little over a year ago," said Froholdt, in Pittsburgh with his teammates this weekend to play the Steelers. "It's easy to get lost sometimes just playing ball or with your performance or everything around you. Once you can narrow your focus and really think about your own game, you can maybe tap into a new part of your game."
Froholdt has been working with Dorthe Hummel, a mental strength coach, about that component of a player's development and performance. Luckily for Froholdt, who has utilized other resources that the NFL offers its players, she's Danish.
"With Danish being my native language, it seemed to resonate better with me," Froholdt said.
Froholdt has been interested in learning more about mental strength since he was young. His mother is also a mental coach, but he wanted her just to be his mom.
The opportunity to speak with Hummel fell into Froholdt's lap and it's made a huge difference in his game.
"It's hard to get to that point where you're like, 'Wow, I need help,'" Froholdt said. "I play well enough to play in this league, but I need to get past potentially a few mental blocks here or there so that I can lock in better for game days, etcetera.
"Regardless of what anybody thinks, you just got to listen to yourself, so it definitely brings in a lot more confidence in the game, and a lot more calmness. I don't feel as jittery or freaked out. I just got to play my game and then that tends to be good."
Froholdt has done a solid job this season, earning the starting role during training camp and playing in every game since. The techniques will certainly be put to the test against a Steelers defense and one of the best defensive lines in the league, of which Froholdt is familiar having played previously with the Cleveland Browns.
The majority of the preparation for Sunday takes place during the week on the practice field and in the meeting rooms. Speaking with Hummel has also been instrumental ahead of Sunday's game.
"It's easy to get muddled away because they got Cam (Heyward), they got (Larry) Ogunjobi, they got (Keeanu) Benton who's playing really well, they got (Alex) Highsmith, they got T.J. (Watt), and it's the Steelers at their place," Froholdt said. "There's all these things that could really affect your head, but in the end, what plays do we have? What fronts do they run? How do I block?"
All of those aspects are why coach Jonathan Gannon said that the offensive line is a "thinking position" and offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said that behind the quarterback, the offensive line arguably has the most on their plate.
"The O-line is the group that has to make the most adjustment, have the most communication, both in the run game, in the pass game, multiple fronts, second level pressures, and just making sure they're all on the same page," Petzing said. "I think that's one of (Froholdt's) strengths."
Petzing praised his center for his preparation and the types of questions he asks to fully understand the team's gameplan. Having spent time in the AFC North, Froholdt's used to playing against the Steelers and in bad weather games. The atmosphere won't be new, and he knows that the Steelers "play really freaking hard and we've got to do everything we can to bring it to them."
Froholdt's confidence is centered around the mentality that he's been able to develop. In the past, stress and anxiety hindered his ability to perform and get better.
Now that he is in a position room with "a bunch of guys that support each other," Froholdt is taking his game to the next level. And with Hummel's assistance, Froholdt has been able to find a newfound love for the game.
"We kind of turn it around and she got me to talk about different things I love about the game and different things I appreciate about it and different opportunities that I've gained because of it instead of just some performance anxiety," Froholdt said. "I think once you can boil it down a little bit and do something small, then you can narrow your focus. Hopefully if anybody else hears this, maybe they say, 'Hey, I should take it up and start talking to somebody.'"
SATURDAY ROSTER MOVES
Wide receiver Zach Pascal, whose child was born on Friday, was downgraded to out on Saturday. With both he and Michael Wilson out, the Cardinals promoted wide receiver Dan Chisena from the practice squad to the active roster on Saturday.
The Cardinals also elevated defensive lineman Phil Hoskins and cornerback Divaad Wilson from the practice squad.