Monday, May 13, 2019

Patriots: Running back Rex Burkhead hopes yoga and Pilates can help keep him healthy

By Mark Daniels, @MarkDanielsPJ
Posted May 11, 2019 at 6:28 PM
Updated May 11, 2019 at 6:28 PM

FOXBORO — Rex Burkhead isn’t sure if he’s found his true center. He doesn’t know if child’s pose, downward-facing dog or the happy-baby poses are truly making a difference.
Of course, the Patriots running back hopes they are.
Burkhead has shown the ability to impact the Patriots offense during his first two seasons in Foxboro. When he’s on the field, good things usually follow. The biggest problem, however, has been that he hasn’t always been on the field.
In two seasons, Burkhead has played in 18 of a possible 32 regular-season games. After only playing half the season in 2018, this 28-year-old hopes to find a happy medium between getting in playing shape and better preparing his body for the rigors of the upcoming NFL season. That’s where yoga and Pilates come in.
“I do a little bit to mix it up. To always keep the body guessing. Make sure your flexibility’s on point because I feel like that helps prevent injuries,” Burkhead said this week. “I’ve done (yoga) in the past, but I think I’ve gotten more into it. It’s something I’ve taken from guys, guys I’ve looked to as mentors as well that said it’s helped them out a lot as their career has gone on or even some retired guys saying, ‘This is what I did, and it felt like it did help.’
“Even if it really doesn’t, it’s kind of a mental thing as well. I figure, why not?”
During his first four seasons in the NFL, Burkhead was used more on special teams in Cincinnati. When he signed with the Patriots in 2017, he could do lots more than that. That season, Burkhead showed the type of versatility that’s rare for a running back. He can run between the tackles and average more than 4 yards per carry. He can also catch passes out of the backfield and take advantage of mismatches with linebackers.
In 2017, Burkhead finished with a career-high eight total touchdowns (5 rushing, 3 receiving). That season, however, Burkhead dealt with a rib injury in September and October. Later, in December and January, he missed more time with a knee injury. Overall, Burkhead played in 10 regular-season games and finished with 264 rushing yards to go with 254 receiving yards.
Last season was similar, but not in a good way. Burkhead found himself on the injured reserve by Week 4 with a neck injury. He made his return in Week 13. In eight games, he ran for 186 yards and finished with 131 receiving yards. He scored just one touchdown in the regular season.
“You learn from your experiences from the past,” Burkhead said. “Also with some of the older guys like Matthew Slater, who’s been in for a while now and how he really takes care of his body. There are things — I remember my rookie year, I think I took like one week off, and I was right back in it, hardcore lifting right after the season. You learn that’s kind of not the best way to go about it. Your body takes some time to recover mentally, physically, and there’s some little things you can pick up on, too.
“Whether that’s yoga or Pilates, things like that to make sure your body is in the best shape possible. When you make it far, you really have to stay on top of that. Especially here, you understand your body is your temple and your line of work.”
Burkhead finished the season on a high note. He played well in the playoffs, finishing with 3 touchdowns, 96 rushing yards and 45 receiving yards.
After the Patriots drafted running back Damien Harris in the third-round, Burkhead knows there will be more competition come training camp. That means he’ll need to stay healthy. That’s why he’s pacing himself this offseason.
“Things like that — understanding you can’t go a million miles per hour every single day or else injuries could pop up,” Burkhead said. “Just understanding how to take care of your body, getting advice from some of the older guys as well as some of the strength coach and trainers. They do a great job relaying that information from us. Just really picking up whatever you can to make sure you’re on top of your game.”

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