What's a week in the NFL look like? Desmond Trufant gives a glimpse

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, a former first-round draft pick in his third season, gave ESPN.com an inside look into how he prepared for Sunday's matchup against Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:


The preparation for Sunday's NFC South matchup against Tampa Bay begins upon arriving back in Atlanta after a win at Tennessee.

For Desmond Trufant, recovery means dumping a package of Gatorlytes powder blend into a regular bottle of Gatorade and chugging it on the drive home from the Falcons' facility.

"It's pretty much like salt, so it just helps when you're dehydrated," the cornerback explains. "When you sweat and all that, you burn all those electrolytes out of your system. That helps put them back."

Once he arrives at his house, Trufant proceeds to slip his legs into recovery pump boots. The technology increases blood circulation by applying compression to help clear metabolic waste buildup, restoring the natural delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle.

"I got in those and just watched the Sunday night game," Trufant says. "At least an hour in those."

He stays up on this Sunday with NFC South leader Carolina playing Philadelphia in the prime-time game. Rest follows. Trufant typically goes to bed around 11 p.m. or midnight after an afternoon game.


Trufant arrives at the facility at 9:45 a.m. He gets in a 45-minute weight room workout, focusing on legs. Afterward, he jumps in the cold tub for 10 minutes.

The team meeting starts at noon, during which coach Dan Quinn takes 15 minutes to dissect the positives and negatives from the Titans game. The team, defensive, position and special-teams meetings typically keep Trufant and his teammates in a classroom from noon to 3:30 p.m.

During his Monday news conference, Quinn addresses Trufant's individual performances against the Titans.

"There's a couple of things that jump out to me about his game that's improving: one is the pre-snap communication stuff," Quinn says. "That type of communication is invaluable, in terms of the information. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but the alert is there. I think him just having that comfort at the line of scrimmage. He always has the speed to trust himself that he could bail out of there, but having his patience at the line of scrimmage is really helping his technique."

As the defensive backs meet, the focus for secondary coach Marquand Manuel is on how well each individual played his technique. After dissecting the film, Trufant offers his self-assessment.

"I can always improve," he says. "Just some technique in staying more patient at the line of scrimmage; just being disciplined with my eyes and my feet. It's just little technical stuff."

Trufant refuses to take much credit for limiting the Titans to one score and 256 total yards. He finished the game with one tackle and no passes defensed.

"They didn't even come at me like that. They only threw at me twice. They tried to throw it at me on a fourth down when I was off coverage, but I was right there. That probably was my best play."

Trufant gets an hour massage after the last meeting. Then, he heads home to watch the Monday night game between the Cardinals and Ravens while nibbling on waffles and a sausage, egg and cheese bowl from Waffle House.

"I typically go there at least once a week," Trufant says. "I don't cook nothing, so I've got to get something in."

Trufant, who is 6-foot, 190 pounds, doesn't stick to a specific diet. He sometimes brings carryout home from the office.

"Throughout the week, I pretty much eat the same thing every day. Breakfast: pancakes and scrambled eggs with sausage and bacon," he says. "Then I eat a chicken salad for lunch. I'll eat whatever [for dinner]."

While watching the Monday night game, Trufant sifts through cut-ups of the Buccaneers, provided by Manuel. He observes how the Bucs' offense flows on first and second down. He directs his focus to 6-foot-5 receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, although Jackson is expected to miss the game with a knee injury.

"They've got all the games on there, but I start off with the targets for all the receivers," Trufant says. "Every time they threw it to those guys this year, I look at it. I see what their favorite routes are and where they like to throw them the ball, how they release versus press coverage and how they play the ball in the air."


After a day off Tuesday, during which Trufant picked up his Mercedes-Benz CL from the shop and stopped by Ralph Lauren at Lenox Mall to look at some clothes, it's back to work Wednesday.

He arrives at 7:30 a.m. for the same meeting sequence as Monday, except a few hours earlier. He prepares for practice by spending 10 minutes in the hot tub, then 10 minutes in the cold tub before rubbing Flexall pain reliever on his legs and back.

Lunch before practice includes his typical choice of chicken salad.

"Nothing too heavy so I can still run," Trufant says, "and so I don't have to go to the bathroom every two minutes."

The position meeting leading into practice focuses on the Buccaneers' route concepts and run plays on first and second down. Walk-through goes from 11 a.m. to noon, then Trufant and his teammates hit the field at 1:05 p.m. for practice.

"Wednesday is more of a feel-out day," Trufant explains. "The coaches might change it up on Thursday or Friday. They want to see how we react when we go out there."

Trufant notes there's an "obvious" shift in focus as a result of the knee injury to the Bucs' Jackson. However, he anticipates that whichever receiver steps in for Jackson will be able to execute the offense coordinated by Dirk Koetter, who held the same role with the Falcons the previous three seasons. Russell Shepard is the next man up in Tampa Bay's receiver rotation.

Manuel always preaches preparing for nameless faces.

"They might not throw to that guy as much, but they're going to run the same routes," Trufant says of Shepard.

After practice concludes at 3:30 p.m., Trufant and his teammates watch the day's practice film until 5:30 p.m. Then Trufant receives 30 minutes of treatment on the previously injured shoulder that limited him during the preseason, along with his hamstrings, just to keep them loose.

He leaves the facility around 6 p.m.

"I went to the Waffle House again," Trufant says with a laugh. "They already know my order before I even sit down in there."

Trufant fits in an hour nap when he gets home and then plays video games -- NBA 2K16 and Battlefield. He sifts through notes and practice film before turning in around 11 p.m.


Trufant's back on the grind Thursday with an identical time schedule to Wednesday.

During the walk-through, the defense goes through third-down calls utilized by the Buccaneers. Any two-minute scenario also is incorporated during the session.

While the front seven works on run fits, Trufant and the cornerbacks go through the step-kick technique Manuel implemented from Seattle to complement the three-deep zone the Falcons typically play. At the line of scrimmage, the cornerbacks press the receivers but then take a quick step sideways at the snap. The aim is to eliminate pass interference penalties and to be in a position where there's no scrambling because now that cornerback is on top already.

"I tell them when they wake up and brush their teeth, they need to step-kick," Manuel says.

Manuel constantly reinforces how the corners should be "married" to the technique, particularly a guy such as Trufant who relies on his speed.

"I married it," Trufant says. "I might cheat a little bit every now and then, but I married it. It's definitely a process. I'm definitely getting better every day with it. I'll just continue to work with it."

By now, Trufant has a good idea of how the Bucs typically proceed on third down. Tampa Bay enters the game having converted 37 percent of such opportunities.

"They like to feed to No. 13, obviously," Trufant says of Evans. "They do a lot of quick game. Depending on where they're at on the field, they're going to take shots. Once they get around the logo into the fringe high red zone area, they're going to take a shot in the red zone because they've got a good field goal kicker. They figure they're going to get some points, regardless, when they get in that high red zone area. So they're going to take a shot to try and get a score."

Trufant notes how the defensive backs have to practice covering receivers longer to prepare for the rookie Winston's ability to extend plays. The defensive scheme doesn't call for Trufant to shadow Evans, but he prepares for encounters against Evans in zone or man-to-man by working against 6-4, 230-pound practice squad wide receiver Laron Byrd.

"We go hard against the scout team," Trufant says. "It's 50-50. They're not easing up or anything. They're really trying to beat us. [Byrd] always gives a good look."

After reviewing the practice film and winding down with more treatment and massages, it's back home. This night, Trufant orders up a three-topping pizza from Domino's: pepperoni, sausage, bacon.

Why Domino's?

"That's just the closest thing to the crib," he says.

Trufant catches a little bit of the Patriots-Dolphins game but mentions it "really wasn't that interesting." Another quick review of film and it's time to rest up for the week's final practice.


The arrival time is the same on Friday but the difference is no walk-through. Practice starts at 11:30 a.m. rather than 1:05 p.m.

Red zone defense is the primary focus, with backed up situations sprinkled in. Trufant notices a lot of double moves and fade routes from the Buccaneers on film, particularly with Evans. He's also aware of the screen passes to running back Doug Martin.

"He's definitely a great catching running back," Trufant says. "To be honest, I just kind of react to the run. It's pass-first with the corners, and it's more of the safeties that really have to be on point with the [run]."

Trufant and the defensive backs are mindful of Manuel's message in regard to red zone defense:

"I always say the first thing in the red zone is I slow my body down and I speed my mind up," Manuel says. "The condensed area, they can't go past me. They've got to go through me. We've got to get the football or make them kick a field goal. That's how we have to think."

The earlier Friday schedule means lunch after practice, so Trufant has two pancakes, scrambled eggs with sausage, bacon and cheese for breakfast.

Friday serves as a review of game preparation, including Trufant's role as a safety on kickoffs and corner on punt returns. He covers the gunners on the punt returns and if any returner breaks loose after the kickoff, Trufant has to be the last line of defense to corral the return man.

As he sits at his locker after practice and contemplates lunch, Trufant gets harassed by teammate William Moore about being interviewed for the third consecutive day by the same reporter.

"It's like they're doing some type of E:60 on me or something," Trufant jokes.


Saturday is the final walk-through from 11-11:45 a.m., closed to the media. The film from Friday’s practice and last-play scenarios are the primary topics, with a review of mistakes made throughout the week.

Trufant typically sleeps after the walk-through up until meetings take place again at 6:45 p.m. at the team hotel, located on the Georgia Tech campus. He rooms with fellow cornerback Robert Alford the night before home games. "I just sleep, to be honest," Trufant says. "I sleep a lot."


Trufant emerges from the tunnel at 11:19 a.m. to warm up before a 1 p.m. kickoff. He adjusts his Bose headphones and takes a lap around the Georgia Dome. Then he struts and nods his head a few times while staring into nowhere, displaying a confident swagger.

Trufant spends exactly 20 minutes getting loose, including stretching at the goal line alongside fellow defensive backs Kemal Ishmael and Jalen Collins. What stands out is his focus, oblivious to the world around him. It's the same type of mental approach Manuel encourages.

"If you're one of those guys that goes out onto the field [pregame], I always tell them, ‘Don't go out there and bulls---,'" Manuel says. "Don't waste your time out there. When you go out there, go out there with a plan. If you're a rookie and got no plan, steal someone else's. But just stick with your regime."

The public-address announcer shouts out the defensive starters, and Trufant comes out last to the chants of "Truuuuu."

On the fourth play of Tampa Bay's first series, Trufant has his first encounter with Evans. It's a run play, so the two never really engage. Later in the first quarter, with Tampa Bay facing second-and-9 from the Falcons' 20, Winston targets Evans with Trufant as the defender. Evans uses a double move, as Trufant expects, to create separation. Evans even gets a step, but Winston throws the ball too high and incomplete.

The next three pass plays involving the two players go in favor of Evans. The first is a third-and-14 from the Falcons' 41-yard line with 43 seconds left before halftime. Trufant plays off coverage, but Evans gets enough depth and uses his length to haul in a 21-yard reception, setting up a touchdown.

Then on the second Tampa Bay drive of the third quarter, Trufant gets whistled for consecutive pass interference plays while contending with Evans, costing his team 47 yards and another touchdown. On the second penalty, Trufant lands awkwardly on the ground after leaping to contest the pass. He exits the game with a lower back injury and doesn't return. The frustration is visible in his expression as he sits on the sideline receiving treatment.

Trufant, as an injured player, is prohibited from talking to the media after the 23-20 overtime loss.

Evans, who finishes the game with three catches for 48 yards on nine targets, offers his thoughts on Trufant while walking to the team bus.

"He's a really good player," Evans says. "I got some calls against him, but he's one of the best corners I've been against. Real fast. I beat him on the one, but he's so fast."

For Trufant, it's on to next week.