Here's a secret: The longer you play, the weaker you get April 22, 2014 3:04 PM EDTBy Ross Tucker Sporting News RSShttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhHCpCuVXFkYou get weaker during your time in the NFL, not stronger.That may come as a surprise to many, but with a few exceptions, it's a fact. The strongest I ever was in my life, which was still not very strong compared to my peers I might add, was right before my rookie training camp with the Washington Redskins in 2001. It was all downhill from there.Actually, I was able to get close a couple of times, but I never quite got back to the level of strength I had shown before my career really began in earnest.Why is this important? Two reasons. For one, the rest of the NFL is finally able to report to their team's year round facility this week. Teams with new head coaches were allowed to begin their offseason program on Monday, April 7. Those with a returning head coach were not allowed to get back to work until this week, much to my chagrin.The second reason this is especially relevant right now is that we are two weeks away from the 2014 NFL Draft which begins on May 8, and there are a number of prospects whose "weakness" is considered to be, well, their weakness.It sounds easy to say a prospect like Anthony Barr from UCLA needs to get stronger until you consider that actually adding strength doesn't happen that often because of the rigors of an NFL season. And it's not just Barr. I've seen reports suggesting top prospects like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Michigan's Taylor Lewan still need to add some muscle. Other potential draftees who are lacking power at their position are likely to go in the late rounds, or not at all, as a result.I'm not saying it is impossible for guys like Barr, Clowney, and Lewan to get physically stronger. It's just not very easy once their careers get started, especially considering how much playing time those three are likely going to receive as a result of their high draft choice status.I distinctly remember thinking during my rookie season about how much stronger I would be the next year and the year after that as I looked around the room at some of the veterans that were older than me.The problem was that I had no appreciation or understanding of how demanding the NFL calendar really is.It starts with training camp. Fortunately for the current players, the new collective bargaining agreement dictates that camp isn't as grueling as it used to be, but it still is the beginning of the strength decline. You simply aren't going to be able to maintain your weight room strength when the focus during the six weeks from late July through August is on the on-field work and meetings in order to get ready for the season.By the time the season rolls around, something is usually bothering you physically and that only serves to combine with the grind of the weekly game plan schedule to diminish the effectiveness of your workouts. I always lifted in the morning, thinking that gave me my best opportunity to maintain my strength, but it's still pretty much a pipe dream. You're really lifting at that point in order to try to keep as much of the strength you built up throughout the offseason as possible. You don't want to have lost a significant portion by the time November and December roll around.Then the season ends. After taking some necessary time off, the length of which varies from player to player, you can slowly start trying to build back that strength. That's if you don't have an ailment that needs to heal or an offseason surgery—one or both of which is likely.Now we are in February, or perhaps even March, and before you know it the offseason program will start in April. The good news is that you are back with your teammates and strength coaches building your strength. The bad news is that in a few short weeks the mini-camps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs) will start and the focus of the coaches will be on that on-field work as opposed to the weight room. You can probably maintain your strength during that time, but you aren't making gains, that's for sure.Then you get a month or so off and training camp begins. When exactly are you supposed to get stronger, again?Plus, the older you get the more ailments you likely have and thus, the more time off you need. Not to mention that you are older and unlike high school and college, that is no longer a good thing in terms of your strength development.So are prospects like Barr who need to get stronger when defending the run or Lewan who need a better anchor in pass protection doomed? Not necessarily. The truth is, most of those issues have more to do with technique than they do brute strength. I was a more powerful and effective player in years three-through-five than I was in my first year or two because I was much better with my leverage and hand placement. Coaching and time spent working on your technique can help greatly in this regard since you aren't really able to pack-on a lot of additional muscle.That's Eric Fisher's problem. Last year's No. 1 overall pick struggled mightily as a rookie and I've seen many quotes, including from some of his coaches and Chiefs executives, suggesting he just needs to get a little stronger.When is that going to happen? Andy Reid reported on the first day of offseason workouts that Fisher had a shoulder surgery AND a repair of a sports hernia this offseason. That cuts significantly into his strength building time. That's the negative.The positive—if there is one when the first player taken in the draft plays as poorly as Fisher did—is that his issue really was more about functional playing strength and not weight room strength, and that comes down to technique on the field.Fisher clearly lost confidence early and as a result he became a lunger and a grabber, and in either instance, had very little power. If you are lunging, you are losing your lower body power because your upper body is out in front of you. If you are grabbing, your hands are outside of your opponent's and your leverage is compromised.So what does it all mean? It means Fisher, and other players like him, can get stronger in their jobs even if they are unlikely to get stronger in the weight room.Make sense?