The year and a half from the start of his senior season at Arkansas to the last game of his first NFL season was a self-described whirlwind for guard Frank Ragnow, which is about the norm for a lot of first-year players.
For high-level prospects like Ragnow, the end of their college career quickly transitions into college All-Star games like the Senior Bowl, and then the NFL Scouting Combine and the pre-draft interview process. The NFL Draft arrives quickly, and players are in their new cities for rookie minicamp a week or two after the draft before they then join the veterans for OTAs.
There's really no offseason for first-year NFL players, which is why Ragnow, Detroit's 2018 first-round pick, enjoyed the opportunity to take a step back and catch his breath.
"I've been able to develop a routine as a Michigander," Ragnow said Tuesday. "Figure out my morning workout routine. Discover some fishing spots. Kind of get into a routine.
"Coach (Matt ) Patricia always (talks about), 'You can be so much more successful when you find yourself a comfortable routine.' I really felt like this year, I'm not training for the Combine. I'm not training to run 40 yards. I was able to better myself physically as a football player and then enjoy some time to get my mind right on the water and with my family. It's been a good offseason."
That first real offseason is critical in the development of young players in the NFL. It gives them an opportunity to take a step back, clear their mind and get away from the game for a moment. It's a chance to recharge the batteries and then come back with the ability to work on areas of improvement with a reference point of having gone through their first full NFL season.
Ragnow said he didn't realize until this offseason how much he needed the break.
"You've got all these emotions and expectations and you kind of just go, go, go and you never get a second to step back and breath," he said. "This offseason I definitely got that opportunity to step back and realize that it was a great learning experience for me personally, definitely not where I want to be, but to be able to sit back, reflect, catch your breath, realize how lucky and blessed you are, it's been good for me, I think."
It's not a coincidence that a lot of times we see players take a big leap in production and from year one to year two. Getting a chance to really take care of their bodies and work on their game in the offseason is part of the reason why.
Ragnow expects to be among that group of players that really takes a leap after having the opportunity to work on a couple specific areas of his game.
"I think for me, personally, it was just my balance," he said of some of the specifics he wanted to work on. "It seems pretty broad, but in pass protection a lot of it is just weight distribution and balance.
"That was one thing I was really trying to work on my pass sets and make sure I have the weight in the right steps and everything."
Ragnow considers his overall game a work in progress, but this offseason allowed him to fine tune it a bit. He's refreshed, confident, and is looking forward to diving into a new playbook and do his part to make the Lions' offense better in 2019.