Sam Ramsden is going where no Seahawks trainer has ever gone before.
The team’s longtime head trainer has moved upstairs at Virginia Mason Athletic Center – into an office that is in short-shouting distance from the one occupied by general manager John Schneider; and into a bigger-picture role – with the title of director of player health and performance.
“Just like the coaches self-scout at all times, and we do it from a personnel standpoint, we feel like we need to be doing that in all areas of our football operation,” Schneider said. “This was an area that stood out, so we probably could be a little further ahead or we could kind of be cutting edge.
“It’s a player-driven league, so why wouldn’t we do everything possible to be able to make sure that not only are we bringing the right people into the building, but that we’re treating them in the right manner particular to their needs?”
So this goes beyond dealing with players once they’re injured, or even how to get and keep them bigger and stronger. It’s that bigger-picture approach that will incorporate all areas of the players’ health and well-being – from diet and nutrition, to durability and safety, to functional movement.
“How do we keep all the guys functioning at a real high level?” is the way Schneider put it. As for putting this project in Ramsden’s hands, he offered, “Sam has so much experience working with different strength coaches over the years, different types of systems and philosophies.”
Ramsden not only is embracing his new responsibilities, he’s excited about the direction the team is allowing him to go.
“You have to give credit to John and Pete (Carroll, the head coach) for having an open mind in terms of looking outside the traditional setting for the medical and strength and conditioning staffs,” he said. “One of the really important aspects of this position is to create a really good marriage between the two departments, making sure that there’s really good communication and integration with what we’re trying to do.
“Stepping into this role, the hope is to provide (head strength and conditioning) coach Carlisle and (associate head athletic trainer) Donald Rich insight; overview; review of what you’re doing; a chance to make things better; ask important, positive, constructive and critical questions: How do we know he’s stronger? How do we know he’s faster? How do we know he’s got better mobility?”
That process already is in place with Carroll and his coaches and Schneider and his scouts.
“They try to create solid, objective measurements – from a mental approach, from a physical approach,” Ramsden said. “They review these guys from A to Z. Taking that mentality, let’s bring that into the strength and conditioning and rehab/medical setting, too.”
There will be some “growing pains,” because Ramsden is stepping outside his domain – the training room.
“It’s strange, and it will be hard,” he said. “It’s kind of like Will Ferrell in ‘Talladega Nights,’ where he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. I don’t know what to do with my hands. What do I do with my hands?”
Ramsden joined the Seahawks as an associate athletic trainer in 1999, as part of the wave of employees who followed Mike Holmgren to Seattle from Green Bay after the ex-Packers coach was hired. Ramsden had been with the Packers since 1993, and before that was a student trainer at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.
Ramsden’s rise also means promotions for Rich; and David Stricklin, who moves into the No. 2 spot that Rich had held, as well as the middle of the three offices in the training room. Michael Tankovich, a physical therapist as well as a certified athletic trainer, has been hired to fill the No. 3 spot with a definite eye on the bigger-picture approach.
The umbrella of Ramsden’s new role also will cover the strength and conditioning staff that arrived in 2010 when Carroll was hired – Carlisle and assistants Jamie Yanchar and Mondray Gee.
As Ramsden said, the proof to whether his new role and the new direction the Seahawks are embarking on are working will be evident in the players’ performance.
“From a players’ standpoint, when they plug-in – whether they plug-in in the weight room as a healthy player or they plug-in in the training room as a player that needs rehab to get back on the field – it’s going to feel like there’s really good synchronicity between the two departments,” Ramsden said. “That’s going to be one of the big jobs and missions of this role for me.”
The position coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and trainers already share something because of the new offseason guidelines that were included in the CBA that ended last year’s 136-day lockout: Less time to work with the players. The seven-month offseason has become a nine-week window in that regard.
“And a lot of that is going to be spent with coaches practicing the players,” Ramsden said.
So there is some give and take between installation of offenses and defenses and training and conditioning.
“You can’t train them hard and practice them hard at the same time,” Ramsden said. “So we have to step back and determine: How do we make our players more durable?”
To Ramsden, it’s like a pie chart. There’s coaching. There’s general health, including eating and sleeping right. There’s strength. There’s conditioning. There’s functional-movement screening, which the Seahawks began this offseason. And, no matter how well the other aspects go, there will be rehab for injured players who are trying to get back on the field ASAP.
The bottom line is having enough “pie” left to get you through the entire season. It’s no longer only a matter of how fast can you run, how much can you lift.
“Our hope is to make these players more durable,” Ramsden said.
And that’s now Ramsden’s job in his new bigger-picture role.
“If I could have handpicked a job to transition to,” he said, “it would be this.”