A Peek Inside Falcons Defensive End Takk McKinley’s Shoulder Rehab
Reprint from Atlanta Journal-Constitution - By D. Orlando Ledbetter
Fresh off his third shoulder surgery in four years and the Falcons declining his $10.3 million fifth-year option, defensive end Takk McKinley arrived in Laguna Hills, California, as a man on a mission.
McKinley was there for physical therapy, strength training and to improve his stamina through cardio training at ProSport Physical Therapy and Performance. “His plan from ProSport was to just get healthy and strong,” said Laura Scott, who has a master’s degree in physical therapy and oversaw the physical-therapy portion of McKinley’s rehab. “Get fit so that he would be ready to play for this season.”
McKinley spoke highly of Scott and of Matt Camargo, his strength trainer. They both confirmed what McKinley said about working Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. until sometimes well into the evenings. “It varied throughout his rehab, but mostly he would come in at 7 a.m. with me and work with me for about an hour and a half to two hours doing shoulder rehab,” said Scott, ProSport’s clinical director. “Getting stronger. Getting his mobility. From there he would meet with Matt, who is our strength-and-conditioning trainer. He would meet with him and do total body, speed and agility and strength training.”
McKinley needed to get stronger and lose weight, too. “After that, he would likely go to the track and do some track workouts,” Scott said. “As he got closer to July, he actually started doing track workouts in the morning and the afternoon. Two track workouts a day, PT (physical therapy) and then strength training.”
McKinley, who was drafted in the first round (26th overall) of the 2017 draft, said not receiving the hefty option lit a fire in him.
“He was motivated and very consistent with his training,” Scott said.
McKinley had to start slowly.
“He did really well with his rehab of his shoulder,” Scott said. “I was just kind of following protocols from his doctor to make sure that we allowed true healing to occur, but also get him the strength and mobility that he needs to play at a high level.”
ProSport was pleased with the final product.
“Oh yeah, he’s very strong,” said Scott, who’s worked with several NFL athletes from the Texans, Eagles, Bills, Chargers and Rams. “He put in the work, and you’re going to see that it will pay off. He did what he needed to do, being motivated, diligent and consistent. He’ll be just fine.”
After McKinley would finish his therapy sessions, he would go to work with Camargo.
“I did more of the dynamic and explosive stuff,” said Camargo, ProSport’s performance director. “With any professional athlete, I try to get them to be really comfortable with me because I know they have a variety of different backgrounds with how they were brought up and their relationships with people in terms of head coaches and (assistant) coaches. I really just made the communications equal with him.
“I wanted to make him feel that he could trust me because I don’t care how good I think I’m going to be with programming, if the athletes don’t trust me, these guys are making millions of dollars. I really started on the personal connection, and then I wanted to get to know what he wanted to do.”
Once the trust was built, Camargo knew that he could push and motivate McKinley.
“I explained everything to him that we were doing, even if he didn’t want to know, then I was really patient with him when he was frustrated,” said Camargo, who has a masters degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in strength and conditioning. “At the beginning stage, he was a little apprehensive because he wanted to get back to game-ready already. But I really tried to connect with him on every level and tried to get him that strength (training) accordingly.”
It took some time with physical therapy before Scott had McKinley ready for his strength training.
“But he still was pretty hesitant mentally,” Camargo said. “So, when I was able to meet every day with him, I was able to give him confidence with repetitive and muscle memory. Once he started to see the numbers go up because of strength and how much weight he was lifting, he started gaining more confidence.”
Then McKinley could do more sports-specific activities with his shoulder.
“At that point we were able to have a lot more fun the last four weeks when he was pretty close to 100 percent,” Camargo said.
Over time, the progress was stunning. “With all of the work he put in, he lost about 22, 23 pounds,” Camargo said. “(He went down to) about 10 percent body fat ... once he was training with me, it was two or three hours and our sessions weren’t easy.
“He stayed strong. There were definitely days where he had to really dig deep. So, I think just in terms of his mental capacity he’s going to surprise a lot of people because he really persevered through a lot.”
McKinley, who played at UCLA, stayed committed to the program over his time at ProSport.
“Even holding up a push-up was pretty difficult for him,” Camargo said. “Then just doing about 10 reps. It wasn’t just in terms of strength, but the strength and endurance. Once he could comfortable with that, we started loading that up.
“Explosive stuff with the bar bell overhead. Just trying to replicate the type of push-off he would do for his position on the field with these large guys coming at him at high speeds and then him going at high speed as well.”
Physically and mentally, Camargo believes McKinley is ready to turn in a monster season.
“I think he’s hungry because he was upset about his contract,” Camargo said. “I respect him a lot. I can’t wait to see it.”
McKinley has some fans in California who’ll be watching the Falcons this season.
“I’m proud of him,” Scott said. “He put in the work. He’s strong, and he looks good. Everything else, he’ll do it on the field to show everyone that he did a good job.”
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