Aaron Wellman won’t make any gameday decisions. He won’t help craft the gameplans. He won’t even have much input in roster decisions or depth chart adjustments.
But he may turn out to be the most important new coach on the Giants’ staff this season.
Wellman takes over the strength and conditioning program from long-time coach Jerry Palmieri after three straight seasons in which the Giants have been among the most injured teams in the NFL. And while the catch phrase for Ben McAdoo’s transition to power has been “evolution, not revolution,” the weight room seems to be the one place where there is more of the latter.
On Friday, as the Giants’ assistant coaches were made available to the media, the team’s weight room was in the middle of an overhaul as new machines were brought in and others removed, all in an effort to keep the players on the field as much as possible.
“The goal is always the same: To maximize the strength, the speed, the power and the movement efficiency of our athletes, all the while minimizing the orthopedic stress on the body,” Wellman said. “We want to use exercises and methods that produce high results at a low cost physically… The main goal is to keep them on the field and mitigate risk. The equipment we brought in, we feel, compliments us in that way.”
One of the biggest changes will be in what the players lift. Wellman has added a number of pneumatic exercise machines that allow the athletes to lift against compressed air rather than the antiquated iron they used to press.
“It reduces the momentum of the lift and allows us to train power at high velocities a little bit safer,” Wellman said of the tools he has been using for the past six years.
The Giants seemed to be late to adapting to advances in this area. They instituted recovery days only last season, and just recently began relying on GPS data to measure the strain on players in practices and workouts. For old-school coaches such as Palmieri – and Tom Coughlin – the steps toward progress sometimes seemed to be taken grudgingly.
Wellman and McAdoo are both of a different generation. They are more comfortable relying on technological changes and taking chances with up-to-date theories.
“There are certainly a lot of great pieces in there and things we can use,” Wellman said of the old weight room, “but we just wanted it to evolve to fit what we’re going to do with our players.”
Wellman, despite a fitting surname, will not be the answer to all of what has ailed the Giants. He stressed that injuries are “multi-factoral” and also inherent to the sport of football. But he also said that each individual responds to training in a different way and there is no universal approach. That, too, seems to be a new concept.
Perhaps nothing illustrated the significance of Wellman’s role on the staff than the number of reporters who surrounded him during his media availability. The strength and conditioning coach is typically a pretty dry interview. For the Giants, it may be of the utmost importance.
“I don’t think what has happened in the past [challenges me],” he said. “I’m challenged by putting every player in the best position to succeed. It’s pretty straight forward for me. I want these guys all to succeed on an individual and team level.
“Improve is a good word,” he added. “We want to improve regardless of the history every year.”