ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The week starts and ends with sushi.
Every Saturday night before Rashean Mathis heads to the team hotel and every Sunday night as he heads home from a Detroit Lions game, he always needs to find some raw fish. He wants to eat something that doesn’t sit heavy on his stomach, especially after a game. He's so exhausted he rarely speaks when he gets home.
This is all part of a routine put together by Mathis over 12 years in the NFL between Jacksonville and Detroit, one that has been refined throughout the years to find a plan to help keep a man in his mid-30s still relevant in a league that always trends younger.
More than anything, how Mathis watches film shifted the most. Early in his career, Mathis would rarely watch film and wouldn’t watch much on his own. He had struggled to watch film and then keep from guessing based on scheme on game days and the last thing he ever wanted to do was overthink what his instincts told him and let that put him in a poor position.
So he avoided it until he learned how to be able to watch film and pick things he needed instead of having it envelop him.
“It was just a mental thing that I knew I was doing,” Mathis said. “That’s the reason I never liked watching film. I never wanted to guess. I always wanted to be reacting out there.”
Now, Mathis watches film six days a week. On Monday, he’ll watch the game before with his teammates. Then, on Tuesday, he starts digging in on his own. He stays away from the Lions facility on Tuesday unless he needs treatment. He tries to intersperse family time with his son, Rashean Jr., by going to a Chuck E. Cheese or apple orchard along with watching the next opponent’s big plays, go-to plays and any odd formations he’s not used to on his iPad at home.
On Wednesdays he watches film of first-and-second downs with the team and then will spend at least an hour at home at night watching both that day’s practice and other clips on his iPad while eating dinner or while his family is getting ready for bed. Thursday mimics Wednesday except he is watching third downs. Friday is a shorter day at the facility and with film because Friday night is more family time -- typically a family dinner and mostly review of the week.
“(What I watch) varies, varies on the opponent, varies on the scheme. Varies on our scheme if we’re doing anything different,” Mathis said. “It just depends on, or if I think I’m fresh and keyed in on everything, how long I’ll watch film. At least an hour.”
Mathis will focus in on specific receivers Wednesday, although he figures at this point there won’t be anything a receiver will do that will surprise him. He watches more to get a feel for the specific receivers, who might be faster or have a little bit more talent. He does this so he can make adjustments throughout the week and on Sunday.
One thing he won’t do, though, is watch full games. He doesn’t learn that way. He prefers cut-ups and clips broken into various packages and down-and-distance so he can hone in on a specific situation all at once.
The one thing he’ll always watch, though, are plays downfield.
“Those are the plays that can hurt you,” Mathis said. “Little dink-and-dunk plays, it’s just technique. But your eyes have to be right for the plays downfield and I like to watch those.”
That happens Wednesday and Thursday as well. By Friday, it is all review.
On Saturday, Mathis won’t watch film until he gets to the team hotel with his sushi. He goes to the facility along with the rest of his teammates early in the day and then goes home and winds down with his son, either having him hit golf balls or play around in the yard.
While film has helped Mathis’ game later in his career, so has his regimen of body care.
Mathis has always been a morning person and always preferred to be a morning lifter as well. He lifts his lower body three days a week -- lighter lifts to get his muscles going Monday and Friday along with a heavier leg left Wednesdays.
On Wednesday and Friday, he is up at 6 a.m. and in the weight room by 6:45 a.m. to get his work in. On Thursdays, the entire team joins him for a team lift before a defensive backs meeting at 7:45 a.m., and then on with the rest of the typical day of work and practice.
All of this -- the film-watching, lifting and eating a massive Sunday breakfast of four eggs, grits, bacon and maybe half of a waffle four hours before the game -- developed over the years as Mathis went from a rookie to a player who understood everything it took to stay in the NFL.
“It changed a lot,” Mathis said. “You kind of get off on talent and you don’t want to feel like you’re playing on talent alone but as a young guy, you know you’re so talented you don’t have to do as much as another guy, maybe.”
That works until the day you get older. Then you do have to do the work, and then some.