Titans’ Kevin Byard physically, mentally fit for season after virtual training program: ‘Football is like a chess match’

Brawn and Brains.

That’s how Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard sees himself going into the new season, revealing Wednesday that he’s done more than just focus on his physical strength in the off season.

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Byard said in an interview with the Titans’ website on Wednesday that he’s been working with NeuroTrainer, a virtual reality-based system meant to help improve players’ mental fitness on the field.

“When I first heard about it, it was intriguing,” Byard said. “It was supposed to be something while when you’re quarantining and in the house, you can put these virtual reality headsets on and it’s supposed to help you be mentally quicker, crisp, and it trains your mind in clutch situations, things like that.”

The pandemic dramatically impacted offseason training. Programs were entirely virtual and voluntary. Players have recently voiced concerns about returning to camp later this month, with many worried about being ready for the season. But Byard’s got an edge.

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“I remember when I first came into the NFL, a lot of vets used to always tell me: This game is more about mental than physical” he said. “And I am starting to really understand it, because football is like a chess match, with different matchups, quarterbacks going up against different guys — you want to be able to sharpen yourself up to be the best player that you can be. A lot of guys work on their physical and don’t work on their mental. I try to work on both.”

According to the the team’s website, Byard was one of 14 athletes from MLB, NBA, NFL, NWSL, USA Water Polo and WNBA to take part in the unique training opportunity that uses “neuroscience and virtual reality to optimize brain performance and collect neurocognitive data that leads to improved decision making, focus and vision.”

Byard hasn’t had the chance to put his new skills to the test, but says he’s seen his score increase each session.

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“At this point in my career, it is more about sharpening the mental part of your game. I want to add to my game any way I can.”

Houston Texans’ Benardrick McKinney and Los Angeles Rams’ Johnny Hekker were among the other NFL players to take part in it.