Strength and conditioning in the NFL is radically different from what it was 28 years ago, when Rusty Jones first started working for the Bills.
Jones, the Bears' retiring director of physical development, is a big reason.
He was the first NFL strength coach to tailor individual workout and nutrition programs for each player, the first to rely on the body mass index system and the first to monitor hydration status with a device called "The Bod Pod."
"He was a pioneer in every facet of it — nutrition, exercise, weightlifting, offseason work," said six-time NFL executive of the year Bill Polian, who hired Jones in Buffalo. "He was way ahead of his time, worlds ahead, in terms of training methods, nutrition and conserving athletes' energy."
Polian credits Jones for helping the Bills get to four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s by conditioning the team's offensive linemen to be able to run the no-huddle offense.
When Bears general manager Phil Emery was a young strength coach at Saginaw Valley State in the mid-'80s, a friend showed him a nutritional program for football players that was being used by the Bills and "some guy named Rusty Jones." It was so much better than anything Emery previously had seen that he started using it immediately for his players.
Later, when Emery was the strength coach at Navy, he pirated Jones' metabolic training programs for position groups.
Jones came to the Bears in 2005 after a rash of muscle pulls prompted then-GM Jerry Angelo and then-coach Lovie Smith to look for different training methods.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher missed the entire preseason and seven games that year with hamstring pulls in both legs and a calf pull. After Jones' arrival, Urlacher never missed another game with a muscle pull until December of last season.
Urlacher's health was part of a larger trend. In the five years before Jones' arrival, the Bears had an average ranking of 31st in the NFL in fewest missed games by starters, according to the Dallas Morning News. In the Jones era, the Bears had an average ranking of ninth.
Retiring Bears strength coach a pioneer in his field
Chicago Tribune | Feb 8