Sometime in March, Vinny Curry made perhaps the most wholesale change of his life.
He stopped eating hamburgers, gave up on milk and made sure that nothing that entered his body could be categorized as red meat or dairy.
This from a guy who couldn’t drive by McDonald’s without pulling in for at least one Big Mac, and most likely two.
Since that day, Curry’s diet has been dairy free, devoid of red meat and without any trace of gluten.
“I’m just trying to experiment in little ways,” Curry said, pointing to the area of his midsection where his gut used to protrude. “Just trying to find an edge.”
Several Eagles have made drastic dietary changes since Chip Kelly took over as head coach and introduced his recommended nutritional program, but Curry insisted that his decision to forge ahead on fish, chicken, vegetables and water has nothing to do with the sports science minions who operate behind closed doors at the NovaCare Complex.
It’s all geared toward being the best athlete he can be and pushing hard to recognize his fullest potential as he enters the third and most critical season of his career.
So far, Curry has seen results. He said he feels faster and more explosive at the OTAs, although he admitted that the true test will come when pads come out in training camp next month.
The gut he had grown accustomed to hiding under his jersey isn’t there anymore. His weight hasn’t changed much, but his waistline is down two sizes.
“Put it this way: Me and [defensive tackle] Fletcher Cox used to wear the same size jeans,” Curry said, which is noteworthy given that Cox is 21 pounds heavier than Curry but only one inch taller.
“It keeps me motivated,” Curry said. “Keeps me excited. I’m just trying to be doing what somebody else ain’t doing.”
The hope is that Curry’s newfound diet discipline and added explosion result in a long-awaited breakout for the 2012 second-round pick from Marshall. Curry’s potential has always been the buzz around the NovaCare Complex, along with his incomparable first-step burst, but coaching and scheme changes have helped conspire against him.
As a rookie, Curry spent the first half of the season inactive while Andy Reid’s staff levied snaps to Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp. Not until the team collapsed did Curry finally sniff the field, but he played just six games.
Last year, Curry adjusted to the 3-4 defense and a scheme that called for more two-gapping than Reid’s one-gap defense. He was inactive for the first two games and didn’t play more than 14 snaps in a game until Week 6.
Although his playing time increased as the season progressed, Curry played just 26 percent of the defense’s total 2013 snaps. Still, he finished with four sacks, tying with starting linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks for third-most on the defense.
This year, Curry is hoping to push incumbent Cedric Thornton to start at left defensive end. Thornton emerged last year into arguably the NFC’s top run-stopping defensive end but his pass rush remains a work in progress -- he logged just one sack in 713 snaps -- and the Eagles desperately need more pressure from the front seven to contend.
Curry’s specialty is pressure, but wrestling the job away from Thornton will require more than just a knack for making quarterbacks jittery.
Curry said his only ambition is to be productive and help the team’s 29th-ranked defense improve. If there’s a job for the taking, he’s all in.
“When opportunity comes I’m going to be there to take advantage of it,” he said. “I’ll try to help my team in the best way I can. I come to challenge everybody.”
But before he set out to challenge his teammates, Curry issued the ultimate competition to himself when he traded his liberal appetite for conservative cuisine.
If he’s gonna eat meat these days, it’s chicken instead of steak. If he’s gonna rehydrate after practice, it’s water, not Gatorade (although he makes an occasional exception for G2).
“I’m just trying to find my way, man,” Curry said.
This wasn’t a process Curry eased into. There was no pecking order for gradually steering his diet away from meats, dairy and gluten.
“Cold turkey,” he said.
There’s no shortage of fast-food joints in and around Philly. As you can imagine, there were some fairly agonizing days for Curry during the first few weeks.
“Oh man,” he said. “There still are.”
But Curry also isn’t promising that he’ll live like this forever.
“That I don’t know. I can’t promise you that,” he said. “I want to see how preseason goes and training camp goes.”