Monday, November 4
I got on the plane in New York with a harsh brisk wind numbing my face. I felt like a piece of bubble gum left behind on the big city's subway. We had been chewed up, spit out and covered in dirt.
The big apple was cruel and I could not wait to get back to the comfort of Jacksonville and my wife. The plane landed about four forty five and as I stepped off the plane I knew that I was back in Jacksonville by the steamy air. I decided that the little sleep I could get would not be able to erase the pain of the defeat. No sleep for Joe.
I got home at five thirty and made myself a pot of coffee and read the paper that arrived on my doorstep before I got home. I was in the office at 10 for the customary lift and run. The team meeting was a meeting of extremes. We got reamed for the game we finished a few hours ago and we got the up beat plan of attack for the week. The season rolls on.
Coach gave us the plan and told us that we were going to go back to work. We had to get back to the basics of football and hard work. That meant to practice being perfect, no matter what the cost. He told us that we needed to hate losing more than we hated practice.
All this talk about getting back to the old school football made me think of all the Rocky movies. Rocky would make a great come back and win the belt back by the way that he would train. The hard nosed training, chasing chickens, punching meat, and the running in knee high snow. Leaving the building I could not wait to get back to practice.
I got home and just spent the evening with the wife Rebekah, and the dogs. The dogs and I took a little nap and my wife scrap booked. Rebekah made a great home made dinner and got to bed early.
Tuesday, November 5
I got up early despite my lack of sleep. As I walked the dogs in the early morning light, I got to thinking about the best way to spend my day off. I went to the office and watched film on the Redskins, nothing like getting a jump on the opponent.
After I watched the Skins and did some personal game planning for how I could contribute to the win, I left and met Rebekah for lunch. We met at Firehouse Subs because I have always wanted to be a fireman and I think that is where firemen would eat.
We spent the rest of the day just goofing off. Tuesday night dog wrestling took place again, although they double teamed me I squeaked out a win. Joe 2 dogs 1.
Wednesday, November 6
Bloody Wednesday Redskins week. The day began early and ended late. Meetings and walkthrough took on a new purpose. The troops had developed a new sense of focus.
Now I know that I have said things like this before, but this is a different feeling. A feeling deep in my gut, not the kind when you eat bad Mexican food, but the kind when you know things are going to turn around.
The practice was different and we were practicing to be perfect. That meant doing all things with a sense of urgency and a sense of perfection. The only way things were going to change was by hard work. At the days end I knew that this was a different day of practice and different is good.
That evening we ate another great homemade meal. Chicken pot pie, oh yeah!! That evening as I walked Beau and Annie I looked up at the stars and began to think about this week's game. This was going to be the first time that I get to play against a team that I was on. It was going to be like fighting a brother or leg wrestling with your best friend.
No I take that back I have not been there since the 2000 season, and looking at the roster there are not many names that I can recognize so that whole brother thing doesn't really hold true. It will be like playing another team, just one that wears uniforms that I used to wear.
Thursday Nov. 7
The pomp and circumstance that surrounds this game was getting bigger each day closer to kickoff. The controversy and everything that the newspapers were trying to stir up just seemed all too much. As players we didn't care what or who was coaching the other team. We just wanted to win, to beat the Skins. This attitude for victory was very apparent in the way that the team was taking care of business. There was an air of seriousness about the practice and meetings that was not there in weeks past. The boys were preparing for war.
After a long day in the office and on the field I had just one more thing to do before I made it home. Rebekah and I were going to collect cans at a Publix for the Second Harvest Food bank. That evening I got to meet so many wonderful and generous people. From a kid who could say the alphabet both forwards and back to all of the workers at the store. I even got to give an interview on the radio, which is a rare thing for me. It is not that I do not like to give interviews, it is just that who would you rather hear from about the Jaguars, Mark Bruencll or Joe Zelenka? Not much of a news story with the Z-Man. Besides the old saying is if you are giving interviews as a long snapper you did something wrong.
Friday, November 8
The shortest day of practice for the week, and also the most focused. We got in the office and got our work done. The boys looked sharp and ready for the challenges that Sunday would bring. The forty-eight hour rule was in effect. That means rest forty eight hours before game time ie, no practice. Yet, after practice, because we are still holding on to the dream of being a QB, Kyle Brady, Pete Mitchell and myself set up a trash can 6 yards from the side lines and stood 40 yards away and began to throw passes. The challenge was to put one in the can, well needless to say after 20 throw's each none of us even came close. I guess we will stick to the TE and long snapping stuff.
After practice Luzar and I went to the shooting range over on the West Side to sight in a gun that we would use for hunting the following week. As we took turns shooting I began to notice something about the week. There was not much goofing off in the locker room this week just some music playing some group I don't know and some dancing - the lawn mower by Chris Luzar. I asked Luzar where he came up with this dance, the lawn mower, and silly me he said "mowing the lamn". Don't worry you will all get to see it when he scores his first touchdown.
Saturday, November 9
Saturdays for me are great days. A breakfast sandwich and a quick walk through and then I am off. Off this Saturday to the second greatest clothing store in Jacksonville next to Wal Mart, the Army/Navy surplus. I went there with Chris Hanson to help him buy some camo for the hunt that we were going on the next week. More on all that next week. Our wives met us for lunch at the Steak n-Shake. I got to wear one of those hats that the cooks do. all right I stole it from the kid menu. but I looked so cool. After lunch I rested for the day until it was time for the hotel.
That night there was no screaming by my roommate Brad Meester just some weird chanting. I think he spent the entire night awake saying to himself. "I must protect Mark, we must win, and I must destroy the Redskins." Needless to say Brad is extreme.
Sunday, November 10
Game day had finally arrived. We had our meeting in the morn and then a meal and off to the stadium. The second that I walked in the locker room I noticed the infamous black paths were back. They were back but it didn't matter, this day was going to be bigger than some pants.
Just one final thing happened this week and it was in pre-game warm ups. As the specialists took the field someone in the stands yelled "GO JOE". Things like these just do not happen for me unless my Dad, Bob, is there. So I think I might be getting fans, how cool is that?