Considering what the Buffalo Bills accomplished during the 2020 season and expectations for the upcoming year, the offseason was a relatively quiet period for the reigning AFC East champs. But for second-year running back Zack Moss, it was a quietly grueling offseason of rehab.
Behind a stellar passing attack, the Bills went 13-3, winning their first conference title since 1995, and fell one game short of the Super Bowl. With the emphasis that is sure to be placed on neutralizing quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs by opposing defenses, the two-pronged running attack of both Moss and Devin Singletary will be relied on even more this season in order to add some balance to the Bills’ high-powered offense.
Moss is looking to build upon a rookie campaign that was filled with both highs and lows. After being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Moss rushed for 481 yards and four touchdowns. He missed three games due to a turf toe injury, then had his season cut short after suffering an ankle injury during his first start against the Indianapolis Colts during Wild Card weekend.
Moss tore the deltoid ligament in his ankle and had the “tightrope” surgery performed to help stabilize the joint in January and has been rehabbing since. It’s a recovery the 23-year-old calls the “toughest recovery process I’ve ever had to come back from,” but his mindset has been to dominate each day of rehab.
Moss heads into training camp a much leaner and muscular 220 pounds, the same weight he came in last season, one indicator that his rehabilitation has been successful.
“[The ankle] has been doing very well in such a short period of time and we’ve been progressing a lot,” says Moss. “I’m just ready to see what’s next with the ankle and trying to dominate every obstacle that’s put in front of me.”
Had it not been for the injury, Moss says he would have spent his offseason training in his hometown of Miami and at the University of Utah, in which he’s the school’s all-time rushing leader. Instead, his days have centered around returning the strength and mobility of his ankle and the surrounding ligaments and muscles.
Most mornings begin at 9 a.m., in which Moss’ day starts off with a quick warmup, followed up with some mobility exercises then a massage for his ankle. He’ll then go into his weightlifting routine for his upper and lower body and then it’s to the training room for a strengthening program for the ankle, building back up the strength in his Achilles, calf muscle with the goal of making the ankle stronger than what it was.
A Year 1 NFL Moss-terclass
Zack Moss’ rookie year was a masterclass in football and learning how much harder he has to work at the pro level.
“Every day is an audition,” he said. “It doesn’t’ matter if you were drafted for a role with a specific team, you have to come in every day with an edge, knowing that day is an audition and that any day, any one of these guys around this league, those working their way up in college, those that didn’t get drafted, can have your job.”
Interestingly, before last season, Moss says he had never run a draw play — even in high school — and he had to adjust while learning different pass protections and schemes. Away from the field, he makes sure he’s taking supplements to aid in recovery and making sure his body is receiving the nutrients necessary for the rigors of the NFL. He also adopted a new warmup routine and is always remaining inquisitive with the Bills trainers and sports scientists on any information that will help better him.
“I’ll do a groin stretch, hamstring warmup, where I’m forcing that fast-twitch muscle to cut on right before practice. I’ll do some plate holds while working on my Achilles to get those going. Maybe, I’ll have a quick massage on my quads, and I’ll hop in the hot tub for 10 minutes and I’ll be ready to go after that.
“The leg press is an exercise I really like doing,” he continued. “It just helps activate so much in the lower body. Doing iso-plate holds to get the calves and Achilles fired up for all the force that is going to be put on them. Just trying to strengthen those tiny muscles each and every day. For the iso-plate hold, I’ll hold for six seconds on the right side, six on the left and I usually do four sets of six seconds.”
Bills Are Due Now
During the Bills offseason practices, Moss, whose cousins were former NFL wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss, was relegated to a spectator role but is expected to be ready to go once training camp begins at the end of July. Aside from the grueling rehab he’s had to complete to get back to doing what he loves, the injury only strengthened his belief to take nothing for granted and to make the most of the opportunities he received. It’s a message he likes to share with his Ute alumni working to get into the NFL as well as all young prospects.
“To be in this league is a benefit,” Moss said. “There’s a lot of guys who were more talented but didn’t make it out of high school that were better than the guys that made it to the league. I know a lot of guys that fit that role. I’m from Miami and that’s a big football town. It’s not many slots in this profession, so you have to come in and do your job every day.”