Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson:
Jay’s ball came nose down with an aggressive spin. Jake’s was nose up and a little softer. Unless you catch it clean with your fingertips, the ball’s movement will determine its ricochet, which in turn determines how a receiver positions his body for a ball that’s coming in hot. Knowing where the ball will come down before the defender knows where it will come down is 90 percent of the battle as a receiver. If I react first to the ball in flight, meaning, if I understand the ball’s flight better than you, then I will be there sooner, and will create a wall between you and the ball with my body. Now all I have to do is catch it. Nose-down ball means it is diving and I need to get my hands underneath it. Nose-up means it’s rising and I need to get my hands on top of it.
But we understood the difference in their balls from practice. The main adjustments were game-day stylistics. How does he feel? What does he like to do? What does he see when he scrambles? What parts of the field does he like to exploit? What do his looks mean? What routes does he prefer? How does he communicate? This stuff comes along slowly.
The next week we go to San Diego and lose to an especially game Chargers team. We are powerless to stop LaDainian Tomlinson’s mojo. He scores three touchdowns in the game, which gives him twenty-nine for the season: an NFL record. The crowd chants “M.V.P.! M.V.P.!” He’ll go on to play eleven seasons in the NFL, quite a feat for a superstar running back. Running backs have very short careers. The better they are, the more they’re used, the faster they fall apart. The human body can’t absorb that punishment for very long. A thirty-year-old running back is a rare sight in the NFL. LaDainian will play into his thirties and walk away before someone tells him he has to.