Kiko Alonso’s All-Out, Every-Down Tour of the NFL has three weeks to go.
Alonso has played all 897 defensive snaps for the Buffalo Bills this season. He has played the second-most downs of any defensive player in the NFL.
The Bills say they have no reason or desire to trim his workload in the home stretch of the season.
“I think it’s exciting,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “I think all of us can see the way he plays the game. … He’s playing a position at a high level for a rookie or a veteran.”
Marrone says he has seen no evidence of Alonso hitting a proverbial “rookie wall.”
“At this stage I have not seen that,” Marrone said. “As a rookie, he’s probably more in tune with his body and getting it ready to play than really anyone I’ve been around. I’m not exaggerating with that.”
Alonso’s rate of tackles has seen no let-up. He averaged 10 tackles a game the first half of the season. He’s averaging 10 tackles a game the last five. His 131 tackles still rank second only to Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict, who has 139.
Alonso’s takeaways — four interceptions and one forced fumble — all came in the first month. He hasn’t had any since. It’s probably unrealistic to expect the interceptions to keep coming. Only one NFL linebacker in the last five seasons had as many as five INTs in one year.
Alonso and the rest of the run defenders had a subpar game in the loss to Atlanta two weeks ago. Alonso’s over-pursuit contributed to one Falcons TD run. Alsono had one glaring over-pursuit in Tampa, too, on the 80-yard touchdown run by Bobby Rainey on the second play from scrimmage. The rest of the day, however, Alonso was mostly outstanding in filling holes. The Bills allowed only 2.4 yards a carry on 35 rushes after the big TD run.
“I feel great,” Alonso said. “I just try to take care of my body so I can stay on the field. I’ve got to take care of my body so I can keep playing. I try to do everything I possibly can to keep my body healthy.”
For the first time, the Bills limited Alonso in practice this week. He has a sore knee. It’s not going to keep him from playing against Jacksonville Sunday. But the Bills mostly rested him the past two days.
“You can’t perform at that level and not have some wear and tear on you,” Marrone said. “We had to be smart today. Today he says, ‘I want to take every rep.’ I’m like, ‘OK, that’s great, we appreciate that.’ But we want to make sure. So there’s always managing of players.”
Marrone says Alonso deserves a lot of credit for the knowledge and effort he puts into conditioning.
“He’s one of the first guys here in the morning and one of the last guys to leave,” Marrone said. “What you see with him is what we talk about. We say don’t confuse effort with results, with him you see effort and you see results.”
“Part of what being a pro is being in tune with that, being able to take care of your body,” Marrone said. “Did the trainer tell you to come in early? No. Did the trainer tell you to stay after and take care of your body? No. Is it an injury? No. It’s maintenance and knowing who you are. I think that is excellent.”
Alonso credits his college experience at the University of Oregon in part with helping him meet the physical demands of the NFL.
“Oregon’s program is pretty advanced,” he said. “They went to great lengths. They brought in all kinds of specialists to come talk to us. I think that helped me learn how to take care of my body. And I think each year I get more knowledgeable. I’m learning new things about how to take care of it.”
Like most players, Alonso gets a massage once a week. He takes two ice baths a week. He occasionally sees a chiropractor the Bills make available in their training room.
“I do all kinds of stuff in the treatment room, all kinds of stuff in the weight room, diet, sleep, rest, every aspect,” he said.
He eats breakfast and lunch at the Bills’ facility. He eats out for dinner.
“I try and eat healthy,” he said. “Every once in awhile I’ll eat a burger. But I eat here during the day and go to the supermarket and usually pick up prepared food for dinner.”
Counting special teams plays and plays nullified by penalty, Alonso has been on the field for 969 downs, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The only player with more is Philadelphia linebacker DeMeco Ryans, at 990 plays.