“Daddy, are you going to be able to lift this week?” asked Isaiah, one of Moses’s four kids, who he joked are “like my little personal trainers.”
“Yes, sir,” Moses replied. He knows there is no other answer. This is his seventh NFL season, and even in a sport as physical and demanding as football, Moses’s ability and willingness to play through injury stand out.
This season, he has been visibly hampered by several injuries, including an adductor strain, and he has limped off the field with help from a trainer more than once. But on Sunday against Carolina, Moses is expected to make his 95th consecutive start, the second-longest streak among active offensive tackles behind the Atlanta Falcons’ Jake Matthews at 108.
Moses credits this durability to his rehab regimen, a methodical “whole-body restructure.” The process starts as soon as he leaves the field on Sundays, and it shines light on the herculean task of preparing a body to play in the NFL each week — especially this season, which has been plagued by high-profile injuries and facility closures. For Washington, coronavirus protocols have limited access to essential tools such as the weight room.
Yet Moses has maintained a high level of stability. Last winter, he moved into the farmhouse, a custom-built home with a gym and recovery center that includes a weight rack, cold tub, infrared sauna, steam shower, hyperbaric chamber and about 15 yards of artificial turf, on which he pushes a blocking sled. The builders encased the weight room in concrete so that even during late-night lifts he can blare ‘90s hip-hop or the latest Tiny Desk concert.
“Once everything was shut down for covid, I didn’t miss a beat,” Moses said in an interview. “Having that stuff at home and [being] able to take your time and really stretch and do the things that you need to do to get yourself ready for Sunday … it’s vital.”
After he assured Isaiah he wouldn’t miss any lifting, Moses slipped into the cold tub. He ends every day there and in the sauna, the hot-cold combination working as an opening salvo in the war against swelling. The routine continues the next morning, when Moses used to do in-person yoga before the pandemic. Now he stretches before participating in a virtual class while his internal clock ticks down — first to Wednesday, when hitting begins in practice, and then to game day.
“We’ve been in playoff games since Thanksgiving,” Moses said. “The games get a lot tougher, and the bruises get a lot bigger.”
Moses’s routine was refined over years. Moses said he attended parties after games when he played at the University of Virginia. But when Moses was a rookie in the NFL, defensive end Jason Hatcher and left tackle Trent Williams preached to him, “Your best ability is availability.” He started going from games to rehab, instead. Eventually, he started spending much of the offseason training with a specialist in Miami.
In 2018, not long after he signed his second contract, Moses decided to build the farmhouse in Northern Virginia. He prioritized the weight room to extend and maximize his career, and former Washington center Kory Lichtensteiger helped him design it. Moses decked out the room with the finest equipment and personal mementos, including a collection of about 70 signed jerseys from his opponents over the years. He had a red “M” emblazoned into the black turf. The basement became both a shrine and a testament to the seriousness of what Moses learned from Hatcher and Williams about availability.
Moses doesn’t gloss over the cost his career requires. During construction, Moses once walked the lead builder, Todd Hartley, around the room, pointing to pieces of equipment and listing the injuries — ankle surgery, Lisfranc surgery — he had endured to afford them.
“It was kind of eye-opening,” Hartley said. “You see these guys on TV, and you see they’re making a lot of money, but then you remember it takes a toll.”
Tuesdays can be the hardest. Adrenaline is a memory; soreness is not. Yet Moses would rather ride his Peloton than dwell on the hurt. He believes he is intimate with the body’s furthest limits, and he can be clinical in bending it to his will.
“There comes a point in the NFL where there is no [feeling] worse, so you become almost callous to the pain,” he said.
Take the adductor strain as an example. Moses said the key is to stretch and activate “other areas” of the hip to hold more of his weight, “because obviously my adductor is not functioning the way it should be.” This allows him to “access a little more athletic ability during the games.”
Moses goes to such lengths for several reasons, including longevity, respect for the game and love of his teammates, because as “a competitor, all you think about is [not] letting those guys down.”
The motivation is also intrinsic. Moses will turn 30 in March, and he has felt each snap become more and more important.
“Football is an outlet to me. Football is a blessing to me,” he said. “And this league gets younger and younger. You never know when that last snap will be. Obviously, you want to say you [can] play 13, 14 years, but at some point, you got to be realistic and say, ‘I really won’t be able to withstand that much.’ Right now, for me, I’m just having fun. It’s like, [as] a kid, playing football in the NFL is ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous feeling, man. Therefore, I cherish every moment of it.”
Moses, like the NFL as a whole, approaches Wednesdays and Thursdays the same. This week, Moses woke up at 4:30 a.m., trekked to the basement and spent about an hour in the sauna. He left the house at 6, got to the team facility at 6:30, received treatment and returned home. He was in meetings from 9 to 11, returned to the facility for practice at 1:05 p.m., stretched and then headed home to lift before meetings. He spent some time with his family — he got them a mini bernedoodle for Christmas — and put the kids down. Then he went back to the basement, to the cold tub and the sauna and the battle with his body.
At least two or three times per week, Moses sleeps in the hyperbaric chamber, which increases air pressure, accelerates recovery and eases chronic muscle pain. Even when he doesn’t sleep in the basement, he’s drawn to it.
“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Man, I’m going to get me a nice little 20-minute StairMaster,’ ” he said.
By Saturdays, his body is almost ready. If the team is playing at home, the last thing he does in the house that afternoon is steam shower. He knows he will soon fall into a familiar pattern: hotel, study session, team meeting, movie, sleep. The next morning, he will do his devotional, watch one last game of the week’s opponent and get ready for the bus, propelled again toward the field, which represents the crux of his regimen.
But on those days, just before he leaves, Moses is still in the sanctuary. He usually walks to the door with his family, hugging and kissing his wife and children. His focus then points toward Sunday. But he steels himself because he knows that not long after the week’s game, as soon as he walks back in the door, he must be ready, no matter how he feels, for the loop to begin again.
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