British NFL star, and Washington Commanders defensive end, Efe Obada writes exclusively for talkSPORT on the upcoming season.
This is my sixth year on an active NFL roster, and ninth in the league as a whole, which feels surreal to say. When I first came into the league, everyone was harping on about how the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’. You end up being around these guys that are high draft picks and get paid, but then one day they aren’t there.
Guys who came from the International Player Pathway (IPP), like myself, weren’t having a lot of longevity in the league either, so my mentality was to take each day as it comes. I’m incredibly grateful that I’m still around; it’s something you can’t take for granted because it can be taken away from you in an instant.
I can’t wait to get back out on the field again, but unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait a little bit this season. I’m frustrated to have picked up an injury and have to go on Injured Reserve for a few weeks but the silver lining is that I have the best doctors and physical therapists in the world working on my recovery. I know that I’m going to come back stronger than before too.
Everyone thinks we get an off season and that we’ve had all summer to relax, but for me, it starts after the Super Bowl. That’s when I begin training and preparing for the new season. We have OTAs, minicamp and then the month off where we do our own regime.
To go through all that intense physical training and mental readiness, then hit the hurdle of an injury, so close to the start of the actual season, when things really count, is definitely frustrating. But I also have to zoom out and look at the big picture, what’s best for the long term and what’s going to set me up for success on the field. Thankfully, being on IR is new for me. Depending on the severity of the injury, everyone’s experience is different.
For me, so far, I’m taking part in everything; I’m still involved in meetings, still lifting weights and an active participant in the schedule. The only thing I don’t take part in is practice, the physical side, and games. Everything else, I’m really involved in. I’m in every meeting and staying updated on any play changes so I’m ready when the time comes.
In terms of Washington, we’ve obviously had some changes in the off-season and everyone is optimistic and excited for this year. In terms of the game, we may be in the same division as the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, who all made the play-offs last year, but that’s one of the great things about the NFL, anything can happen! Everything is reset now. Anyone and everyone will think they can win the Super Bowl and get that ring. And players will start bringing their A-game now, because mistakes mean so much more and everything carries more weight.
I think you might see a few guys on our team be breakout stars this year; people like Dyami Brown [wide receiver] and Kam Curl [strong safety] are definitely ones to watch out for, they looked really good in training camp. Honestly though, it’s anybody’s game. Everyone is putting in so much effort, time and energy behind-the-scenes and we feel confident it will pay off.
There’s a different air in the building and sense of urgency. Coaches have been harping on us about starting fast and I think everyone has bought in. In the US, everyone was focused on College Football before the NFL gets going this week. Guys are coming in and talking s*** in the locker room if their team has beaten another guy’s team. I definitely feel left out in those moments as I didn’t go through the college system, but it just shows that isn’t the only pathway to the NFL.
Excitement is building ahead of the new season and everyone can’t wait for kickoff. The beautiful thing about this game is that anyone can win on game day. Last year, the Eagles were undefeated and Commanders were the only team to beat them and knock them off their peg a little bit.
It’s a new year, the cards have been shuffled, teams have hopefully done their homework, due diligence and have new pieces in place. Patrick Mahomes is a great example; with him you have to play the down longer than you would with some other quarterback, just because of his ability to extend plays.
I’ve played against Kansas City a few times, especially in that significant game at Buffalo when it came down to the wire and it was so frustrating to play against him. You definitely have to prepare differently with a player like him. You have to be mindful he can throw the ball, but can also take off with his feet. It’s all about containing that. The secondary and D Line have to work in cohesion. The secondary needs to make sure they are on point and give us time; we need to capitalise and make sure we don’t give him any escape lanes to extend the plays. He can make these highlight throws.
You definitely have to be mindful, as a pass rusher, of where he is at all times. You can’t just run around and open lanes for him because he will escape and extend the plays with his feet. Once he starts to extend, they’re a really well coached team so their receivers are able to scramble and find space. They play really good backyard football and can make big plays that can really hurt you. Can he rival Tom Brady to be the GOAT? It’s probably too soon to say, but he’s definitely making his case.
People will expect Kansas City to be fighting for another Super Bowl.
I’m clearly biased, but my prediction is that the Commanders are going to win the Super Bowl!
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