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Crowning the NFL’s Offseason Workout-Video Champ

Now that James Harrison has retired, there’s a massive void in the league’s cottage industry of summer training videos. Who now holds the championship belt?

NFL players working out Getty Images/Ringer illustration

James Harrison, the bar-bending, participation-trophy-hating, medicine-volleyball-playing, eight-plate-hip-thrusting former Steelers linebacker, has been the undisputed champion of offseason-workout videos for much of the last decade.

Harrison retired in April, leaving behind a complex legacy in Pittsburgh, but more importantly, a massive void for the NFL workout-video champion. It’s time to crown a new one.

No. 6: Ndamukong Suh

When the Dolphins released Suh in March to save $17 million in cap space, the former-All-Pro defensive tackle became a surprise free agent poised for a big payday. As teams began courting him, Suh’s Instagram story sprang to life. I’m not saying Suh used his daily workout videos to promote himself during free agency, but, well, Suh kind of said that.

Saturday morning grind.

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Suddenly, Suh had a post for each of his morning workouts, many timestamped so you knew he was there before you were awake. His favorite activity (when he’s not practicing his kicking technique) is testing the structural integrity of buildings with medicine balls.

I developed a hernia from just thinking about doing this:

TGIF

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Suh has quite the artistic touch on his stories, always adding the right filters. His biggest strength is Boomerang.

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But he can get one-dimensional: Suh’s offseason workout Story currently pinned to his profile has seven (!) consecutive Boomerangs. Besides, part of the magic of James Harrison is that he probably doesn’t know how to even make a Boomerang because he’s focused on lifting weights.

No. 5: Cam Newton

“I wanna get something straight,” Newton says in a July 2 video on his Instagram story. “When I’m showing you these clips like what I’m doing and shit, I’m not doing this shit just to show face. I’m showing this shit to get yo’ fuckin’ ass up off yo’ ass and do some shit. You feel?”

Newton purged his once-brilliant Instagram of all posts after the Panthers lost to the Saints in the wild-card round. It’s a travesty that we’ve lost Newton’s Coachella outfits, but luckily for us, Newton still uses Instagram stories for his workouts.

There is next level, and then there is Cam Newton applying nonsensical accent marks to his captions so he seems like he’s speaking illuminati. He’s also hitting goalposts in his spare time. What holds Cam back is that he likes to talk in his videos as much as he likes to work out in them. Cam can keep shining, but this is as high as he can go for now.

No. 4: Odell Beckham Jr.

Rather than post videos of himself in the weight room, Odell sticks to what he does best: one-handed catches in front of a live audience.

Beckham was born to perform. This summer, the human highlight reel has launched 70-yard passes, hit a home run at Yankees batting practice, and done the Shiggy Challenge, but Beckham knows where his bread is buttered. One-handed catches that are as dizzying as they are completely unnecessary.

His videos are edited with EDM and have production value. Check out the final video in this Instagram album for an oddly mesmerizing POV of him catching balls from the hands machine.

The man got so bored playing catch horizontally that he started doing it vertically.

No. 3: Antonio Brown

Just about every day since the NFL season ended, Antonio Brown has posted a Snapchat video of himself running on the beach in Miami. He posted so consistently that he no longer had to run alone. Fans began to join him.

Brown, who was born, raised, and lives (extravagantly) in Miami, worked out on the beach with socks and a helmet. He became a destination. Josh Norman, Cam Newton, and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins have worked out in Miami with Brown.

“You want [the pass] over the shoulder, or you want it like center more?” Haskins asked in a video posted in March.

“However you put it, I’m gonna get it,” Brown replied.

In terms of workout prowess, Brown and Beckham are tied. Brown wins in the tiebreaker of “Which player was more recently featured in the video for a hit Drake song?

No. 2: Aaron Donald

Let’s start with the knives. In April, a viral video of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year showed Donald deflecting knives with his bare hands.

No, those are not real knives, but people believed that Aaron Donald would go hand-to-hand with a man holding two blades the size of Raptor claws. Donald is the best defender in the league, and he bends bars and drags trainers. And apparently he’s mythical enough that people think when he’s attacked with knives, the other guy is the one who needs pads.

No. 1: Saquon Barkley

Saquon went second overall in the draft, but he’s no. 1 in these (far more important) power rankings. He elicits a reaction with a photo that most athletes struggle to garner with a video.

First pitch at Yankee Stadium ☑️

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He threw out a routine first pitch at Yankee Stadium and all anyone could talk about was whether his (Sa)quads were photoshopped.

In that video, he’s dragging his trainer, a guy who pulls Mack Trucks for fun, up a hill. Barkley earned top billing in the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue, and, um, did you see his photoshoot?

All hail your new NFL workout-video king. The only clothing he needs is a crown.