In hopes of producing a strong finishing kick to his NFL career, Patriots tight end Alge Crumpler is trying something new this offseason, working with the personal trainer for top-ranked tennis player Serena Williams and boxers Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones.
The 32-year-old Crumpler is currently on the 10th day of a six-week stay at the Louisiana headquarters of Mackie Shilstone.
By the time he's finished, at which time he figures to report to the Patriots, Crumpler will have been through a sophisticated testing process and rigorous regimen that includes boxing, martial arts, on-field drills and an emphasis on nutrition that includes custom-prepared meals.
If his participation unfolds as designed, Crumpler is banking that the program helps him turn back the clock, giving him the chance to thrive as he enters his 10th NFL season after signing a two-year, $5.2 million contract with the Patriots last Wednesday.
"It's career extension and an optimization of health based on biomechanical and metabolic individuality relative to his position in football," said Shilstone, who described his work as "sports performance management."
"I always ask the player 'How many more years do you want to play this game?' Then I say 'Now let's see if you are capable of it based on what you walked in the door with,'" he said.
Shilstone would not reveal specifics of Crumpler's physical condition after his standard 150-minute physical upon entering the program on March 22, citing HIPAA laws.
The Tennessee Titans listed Crumpler at 262 pounds last season, but a teammate said last August that Crumpler was closer to 300 pounds, which is extremely heavy for a tight end and closer to what an offensive lineman would weigh. His weight was discussed during negotiations with the Patriots, and as part of his contract, Crumpler can earn a total of $200,000 if he meets an unspecified weight each season.
Crumpler, who was called a terrific locker-room leader by Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, has been open to exploring different avenues in the past, such as taking dancing lessons to improve his footwork. Although he was utilized primarily as a blocker over the last two seasons in Tennessee, and his weight rose, he still moved well when sent into pass routes. Fisher said that he believes Crumpler still has "big plays" left in him.
In working with the 59-year-old Shilstone and his "Fitness Principle," Crumpler appears to be making an aggressive commitment toward returning to the physical condition that helped him earn four Pro Bowl berths earlier in his career with the Atlanta Falcons.
"We're advancing in the beginning stages of our goals and objectives with him. Things will change on a weekly basis," Shilstone said. "The first two weeks, he has to get a base level for working more closely with me. We probably won't be on the field for two weeks."
Crumpler's connection to Shilstone comes through his agent, James "Butch" Williams, who first hooked up one of his clients, one-time Boston Celtic Rodney Rogers, with him.
"I do this because it's a passion, not a pension. It's my passion to make my clients better," Shilstone said. "Alge is investing in himself to be better for his team. He's compliant, and he's now doing three-a-days. He's truly gotten into this."