“I don’t put a lot of focus on stats, but having the most catches by a Raider ever is one that means something to me,” says Waller. The record was earned in 2020, when Carr relied on the tight end during a season where the team’s wide receivers were hit by a number of injuries and issues. The situation is one that Waller doesn’t expect to be repeated, with a few new WRs being added into the mix, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels. “I don’t expect to get the same amount of touches, but I want to be productive whatever I need to do in a play.”
Given the wide span of responsibilities Waller has as a tight end, Afzal uses a number of modalities to get him game-day ready. Depending on how he’s feeling, the routine could include Keiser machines, plyo boxes, resistance bands, and kettlebells. “Darren needs to be able to block hard, cut fast, and move explosively,” says Afzal. “Because of that, I try to avoid unilateral training, I want to hit a number of muscles and improve the coordination between those muscles.”
Being a specialist in physical therapy and orthopedics, Afzal is also well-suited to help Waller through the unavoidable impacts the athlete will take on the field. “This is a full-contact sport,” he says. “The best we can do is adapt his training when we need to and do everything we can to make sure he’s as strong as possible when he’s playing.”
How Darren Waller Recovers
Pushing limits doesn’t end in the gym. Waller brings that same tenacity into his recovery. This is not about finding practices that make him comfortable, but rather finding ways to get back in the game faster. These days, the routine entails a weekly visit to IMR Float, a recovery center in Henderson, NV. There, he sits in a sauna at 150 degrees, being led through a meditation by one of the guides. Once he’s spent about five minutes sweating, he passes under a cold shower before plunging into a cold tub set around 50 degrees.