Falcons’ Grady Jarrett keeps on pedaling through uncertain times

Credit: AJC

Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett talks about the team's additions on defense as well his efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Credit: AJC

With the world still on pause, we can only imagine how our many shelved athletes are keeping themselves from turning into quivering masses of goo.

And here’s one particularly disturbing image: The Falcons’ 6-0, 300-pound defensive lineman Grady Jarrett – a manhole cover with legs – in bike shorts.

Jarrett thought about getting a pair or two of the thigh-stranglers, he really did, after recently buying one of those interactive stationary bikes. Then he thought better. Lance Armstrong, he ain’t. “The bike pants, I looked them up and I don’t want to look like that,” he chuckled, during a video conference with the media Thursday.

Given the coronavirus lockdown, Jarrett hasn’t been able to travel recently, but he has been taking some extended virtual trips on the bike that never leaves the house. He’s found a measure of satisfaction in the exercise, except for one uncomfortable side effect: “Those bike seats are no joke, y’all got to find me a cushion or something.”

It is no surprise that Jarrett is spending these strange days much as he would normal times – investing in himself while investing in others. Thursday’s little catch-up session drove home just what makes him not only the focal point of the Falcons defensive line but also one of this team’s strongest links to its community.

Joined with Zaxby’s and American Family Insurance, he is about to begin a second month of sending food to first responders in Atlanta and around his home area of Rockdale County. “We’ve been able to give over 5,000 meals to different entities, whether it’s the fire department or police department,” he said of his act of appreciation.

“Just trying to make whatever little gesture I can to take something off their plate. They’re already going out in hard times, making a sacrifice to keep life going for everybody else.”

Explore>> Falcons working on improving the defense

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of on-going personal maintenance to do. That doesn’t end just because the team’s training site has been locked down. The one-time fifth-round draft pick signed a four-year, $68 million deal last season, but not without first coming to a working agreement with physical toil.

And for a man who considers himself nimble around the kitchen (he’s been exploring the wonders of sea bass recently, he said), burning calories creatively is a big deal.

“I feel really good,” Jarrett said. “I spend most of my time working out and trying to eat good. When you eat good, you got to stay active. I can’t be here turning into a little meatball (actually a quite large one). I’m just finding different ways to work out, add different things to my regimen.”

He and a friend installed a weight room at his mother’s home. He got the bike, and a treadmill, too. Welcome to Jarrett Fitness, a place where the dues are paid in sweat. The player the Falcons will get back when they in turn get back to business will not have yielded to the temptation of the couch. Oh, that would be so easy now.

When he does sit back, Jarrett notes a big hole in his television where live sports used to be. “I miss sports, seriously,” he said. But among the many good things about being 27 years old is that these retrospective shows are like new to him.

Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett stomps his feet after making a big stop.  Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett stomps his feet after making a big stop. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

This should make many of you feel aged – when Michael Jordan broke into the NBA in 1984, Jarrett wouldn’t be born for another nine years: “Everybody is watching the Michael Jordan documentaries now (on ESPN), I’m into that,” he said. “When they kept losing to the Pistons, I’m watching the documentary like I didn’t know it had already happened. I was disappointed – man, they ain’t beat them yet?”

What the Falcons have come to expect of Jarrett – his nonsense-free approach to the game and a growing leadership role in the locker room – is of particular value now with so much unsettled. His example as the players work out on their own and gather remotely for video sessions among themselves and their coaches is going to be important. He is a lens that lends focus to a scattered team.

A sixth-year player coming into his own as a leader is fine to behold.

“I feel the same way I felt really the day I came in the door. I’m self-motivated, always trying to find a way that I can get better personally. The biggest difference is encouraging others to try and come along with me,” he said.

“It’s something I don’t take lightly as far as trying to be an example for others to follow. I’m built in a way I can handle whatever responsibility comes along as far as being a leader or being a voice to hold others accountable.”

So, listen up, particularly all you young draft picks on defense.

“Don’t take your opportunity for granted,” he said, by way of advice. “Where you’re picked doesn’t define security in this league. It’s about what you do when you get here. You can’t be comfortable in the fact that you made it to the NFL. For me, you’ve never made it. I still never had that moment where I said I made it.”

The message here seems to be keep pedaling, no matter the difficulties now. Even if the bike is stationary, you still might get somewhere.

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