’40 speed’ vs. ‘football speed’

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Forty-five pound plates are loaded onto a sled, one by one. Heat radiating off the field, prospects rip through a brisk warm-up. The Nick Winkelman soundtrack is cranked to full volume.

At EXOS in Phoenix, formerly Athletes’ Performance (API), the trainer’s presence booms.

During a high-impact marching drill: “Like that button at Staples! Like that (expletive) button at Staples! Get some paper clips — punch the ground!”

Explaining form to LSU’s Ego Ferguson in another drill: “Imagine I’m pulling a gun out in the Old West … pop!”

Firing out of a stance: “You have to come up and hit that (expletive) wall like you mean it!”

Right here is where draft prospects bridge the gap between “40 speed” and “football speed.” Every spring, this is the NFL’s Great Debate. How relevant is raw, timed speed? And how different is a 40-yard dash from a play on the football field? Many players demonize the event. Many insist it’s essential.

The truth is somewhere in-between. Position to position, the demands of speed vary.

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