On Monday, WHOOP announced its partnership with the NFL Players Association to make the WHOOP Strap 2.0 the Officially Licensed Recovery Wearable of the NFLPA. Last year, Darrell Stuckey, a Pro-Bowler and five-time special teams captain with the Chargers, became one of the first NFL players to wear WHOOP. Stuckey shared his thoughts with us regarding the highlights of his career so far, his club moving from San Diego to Los Angeles, his training and recovery from offseason knee surgery, and what he thinks WHOOP can do for players across the league.
What do you remember about your first day in the NFL?
“I remember my first day of practice. Just being in the same room with players like Quentin Jammer, Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, it was surreal. Getting on the field and being across the ball from Gates, spending my first year guarding him in practice was amazing. And watching Darren Sproles, a guy who was from Kansas City like me, someone I’d seen break records in high school, was unbelievable. You’re at the highest level of a sport that you love, and when you get there the guys you grew up watching are still there, right in front of you. It’s just like–wow.”
What is the highlight of your career to this point?
“My second year in the NFL I got an opportunity to play on special teams. We were playing Green Bay, who was undefeated at the time. We almost beat them after being way behind. We kicked an onside kick to try to come back, and I recovered it. Then we drove and scored a touchdown. On the next kickoff I tackled the returner at the three-yard line. They went three and out, and we had a chance to win. That was my first big memorable moment early on in my career.”
And the lowlight?
“The first time I was on the field for a kickoff was 9/11 [in 2011] against the Vikings, and Percy Harvin took it to the house for a touchdown. I thought ‘Oh Lord, I don’t know if this is going to work out for me.’ But on the next kick, a punt, I beat the double team, laid out and made the tackle. I ended up getting Special Teams Player of the Day that game. It just goes to show you that at the end of the day you might make mistakes, but if you learn from them, you use them as a foundation to stand upon and keep breathing, keep grinding, keep digging, keep going forward.”
What prompted you to get WHOOP?
“I first started using WHOOP last October after one of my close friends, a Yankees Double-A baseball player, told me about how his organization used it that summer. He said ‘Have you ever heard of WHOOP?’ and I was like ‘WHOOP? What the heck is WHOOP?’ But it stuck in my head cause it was catchy. He kept saying ‘This thing is awesome. And it’s waterproof.’ I’d broken two Fitbits already just from sweat. Then my wife and my agent researched WHOOP and she got it for me as a surprise.”
How does WHOOP help with your workout regimen?
“The way in which you strain your body plays a big part in your recovery. WHOOP gives you tips and reminders on how your strain in back-to-back-to-back days affects your ability to recover. For example, today I did striders (I call them striders–100 yards, you’re opening up to ‘stride’ but you’re not going top speed, you do about 10 of them at 80%) since I’m kind of recovering from surgery still. My heart rate was up to 200. It looked like I was just coasting, but my heart was working hard because I hadn’t run in a while. In season my HRV was around 119-120. After surgery, 75 or 80.”
“My teammates and I can all do the same exact workout, but our strain levels would be different. What my body takes on as strain can be different from somebody else’s based on how our cardiovascular systems work. I could come in first every time if we ran, but my strain could be lower than someone who came in last.”
What do you do to sleep better?
“I have issues with sleeping and WHOOP helps me a lot. I’m competitive enough to know that when [my sleep troubles] affect my recovery I’m going to force myself to sleep more, to sleep better. As athletes, we’re competitive while we’re awake all day every day, but we’re not competitive while we sleep because we don’t see our sleep performance [until now].”
“I have trouble winding down. I’ve learned that if I stretch before I go to sleep–yoga stretches with deep breaths, stretches to cool down and get my body relaxed–I sleep a lot better. My body is groomed to go to bed and the next morning I don’t feel sore. I have better recovery days when I do that then when I just go right to bed when I’m dead tired, even if I don’t sleep as many hours.”
When did you have your worst WHOOP Recovery?
“It was February 11, when our third child was born. Our other two kids were sick throwing up all week and I hardly got any sleep. My wife’s water broke at 4 am and we barely made it to the hospital in time. Then I slept in the fold-out chair next to her hospital bed. My recovery after that was less than 10%.”
What do you like best about WHOOP?
“Everything, it’s collective. People don’t emphasize the necessity of recovery enough. We want to peak our performance and we want to be ready to go, but we don’t concentrate enough on recovery. And when we do, it’s not tangible to us. That’s what sets WHOOP apart. Most wearables out there you can’t keep on for 24 hours a day to give you that many answers.”
What else do you think guys around the league will like about it?
“I think the biggest thing about the WHOOP is that it charges on your wrist. It benefits you so much more that you never have to take it off. It’s very convenient and it’s so it’s lightweight that you forget it’s even there. I taped over it and wore it in games a few times last season. The bicep band is also huge for putting it in a place that’s not vulnerable to be broken or hit. And I really like the options of bands. I’ll take off the one I exercise with sometimes and put on a nylon one or a Hydroband. I switch them out on the weekends so I’m not always wearing the one I sweat in.”
Finally, how do you feel about the Chargers moving to LA?
“I’ve been a Charger for eight years, and I still am a Charger. I’m glad it’s only an hour-and-a-half away from where our fans are so we’ll still have an opportunity to see those fans. I think it’s a journey that’s good for the team. Sometimes when a team has been in a rut for so long, it’s good to change the scenery. It’s definitely a lot better than being on a different team in a different city. Moving forward, we’re doing really well right now. The environment is a great one for us to succeed in and we’re all excited to see the new facility. I think it’s a good thing for us and the organization.”