While many of his teammates spent their summer vacation actually on vacation or going through more standard workouts, Rams tight end
A year ago at this time, Kendricks was the talk of camp. The rookie from Wisconsin had emerged early as one of quarterback
What followed was a rookie season that never quite lived up to the expectations Kendricks himself created through his outstanding August performance.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Kendricks said. “We went 4-0 and I had a lot of big catches but you have kind of got to expect the unexpected so I just kind of went out there and played as hard as I could. The outcome wasn’t a W too many times but I think I learned a lot from it.”
What Kendricks learned first and foremost was that the rigors of the NFL both mentally and physically take their toll and if you aren’t of sound mind, body and spirit, it can catch up to you quick.
So Kendricks returned to his hometown of Milwaukee in search of a way to expand his workout regiment beyond the standard weight lifting and cardio routine. He wanted the new workout to not only be challenging physically but to put him in position where he had to stay sharp mentally.
Kendricks flipped through some health and wellness magazines and found some articles about something he’d never tried before but seemed to fit with what he was looking for.
“During the offseason, I took hot yoga,” Kendricks said. “About halfway through you get dead tired and you have got to stay focused and you have got to keep the posture and all that, I think that’s what really helped me.”
For the uninitiated, hot yoga is a form of yoga that closes the participants in what amounts to an oversized sauna with the temperature in the room cranked up to around 90 degrees. Kendricks said yoga is also helpful for athletes in keeping them flexible and in preventing injuries.
“It’s supposed to cleanse you and you come out feeling refreshed and more focused with good synergy,” Kendricks said of the twice weekly sessions.
Surrounded by a crowd he categorized as mostly moms and college students, Kendricks said the sessions would last 90 minutes with a variety of different yoga poses used in the searing heat of a crowded room.
With nothing but a half-gallon of water at his size to stay hydrated on the breaks, Kendricks said a big part of the challenge is staying in the room the entire time without leaving, something he’s proud to say he was able to accomplish.
“It’s kind of addicting because it’s like it’s so hard and you tell yourself you don’t want to leave the room,” Kendricks said. “But you are really tired so it’s kind of like you make yourself stay.”
The challenge of staying in the room might seem like a nominal one to an outside observer but Kendricks viewed it as something much more important and applicable to his approach to the game.
In his rookie season, Kendricks felt like he too often found himself winded in games and when he got tired, he’d lose focus. The loss of focus would lead to drops and ultimately, less production.
So Kendricks put an emphasis on using the hot yoga as a way to challenge himself by putting himself in a difficult environment that required him to do something he’d never done before.
The results were overwhelmingly positive according to Kendricks, who returns to training camp weighing a sculpted 252 pounds, up from about 247 last year.
“I think more so this year compared to last year I noticed a lot when I am tired I am not as focused so I really worked on that this year,” Kendricks said. “When I am tired I try to really stay focused and just kind of keep my head in there.”
Upon his return to St. Louis, Kendricks entered this training camp with something to prove – namely that he could be the player who flashed so much potential in his rookie training camp.
After the dynamic 2011 preseason in which he posted 11 catches for 155 yards and three touchdowns in limited time, Kendricks finished with a disappointing 28 catches for 352 yards and no scores in the regular season.
Along the way, Kendricks had some key drops, including what likely would have been a touchdown in the season opener against Philadelphia. From there, Kendricks never quite seemed to get his confidence back to where it had been coming off the preseason.
“I think I definitely learned a lot,” Kendricks said of his rookie season. “I think had a lot on my shoulders and a lot I wasn’t able to overcome. I tried to control what I could do and I just tried to play as hard as I could for the time I was on the field.”
So far in this training camp and preseason, that self-belief seems to be coming back to Kendricks. Buoyed by a full offseason program – something he didn’t have as a rookie - he’s been solid on the practice field and has four catches for 52 yards and a 23-yard touchdown catch in his limited action through two preseason contests.
“Camp is going well,” Kendricks said. “I’m feeling confident. I’m feeling a lot more in shape, feeling better. I think that’s (from) staying focused, keeping my head in the playbook and trying to learn the offense.”
The offense of new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer figures to use multiple tight ends more often than not. Kendricks has emerged as one of the tight ends who will play the most.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Kendricks is giving the Rams what they’re looking for from the tight end position right now.
“He’s getting coached right now and he’s doing the right thing,” Fisher said. “I don’t have any reason to think there will be a fall off or a drop off in production. He’s having a lot of fun out there. He’s blocking well. Obviously, he likes making plays and he can make plays.”