The following is Jaguars long-snapper Joe Zelenka's diary for Dec. 9-15.
Monday, December 9, 2002
The morning light shone bright through my bedroom window as I opened my eyes to a new day. I arose. My dad, Bob, and I took the dogs outside and then headed off for an early-morning breakfast before I had to get to work and he had to catch a plane home. I was glad to be eating with my father, but the game the day before left my heart sad. The only time I have ever been on the losing side of a last-second loss was in the seventh grade in a basketball tournament. My team was beaten by a buzzer-beater shot from half court. I can honestly say I feel worse today. My head was still spinning some 12 hours after the game. It was like those last few seconds were in slow motion. Losing like that stings worse than a swarm of bees. When I got to work for the customary lift/run and meeting, I could tell the depressing mood had permeated through the entire team. It was weird, like everyone on the team had just lost their dog. I have never seen anything like it. We were all still in shock. We went through our workout and had our team meeting. Leaving Monday afternoon, I hoped the day off would change the mood of the team. Only time would tell. Monday night meant more torment, this time to my stomach and taste buds. Rebekah and myself, along with the Hansons, Pearsons, Combs and Chris Luzar, all went off to try and kill our taste buds with hot sauce and chicken wings while watching Monday Night Football. It was a great time. We all left at halftime. I had to get home, walk the dogs and try and let my stomach settle before bed.
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
I got up early in the morning and met Hanson for some coffee. We decided to start the day with some extra film work. We talked about our plans for the game and the best way to be effective in the cold weather that we were going to get into in Cincinnati. We thought we should try and climatize ourselves, by sitting in freezers. I am sad to say we didn't fit in our freezers. Heck, we could hardly get one leg to fit in those things. Later that morning I spent some time on the internet voting for Hanson for the Pro Bowl. I sure do hope he gets to go. He really likes pineapples and they say you can get them pretty cheap in Hawaii. The big event for the remainder of the day was the dogs and I took a good, long nap. There's nothing like sleeping in the afternoon on the couch. I lost to the dogs again in the annual Tuesday wrestling match. I think they are cheating somehow. I might have to start limiting their practice time. They are just getting too good. Dogs 5, Joey Z. 3.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
The mood in the locker room Wednesday morning was still low from the loss to Cleveland. We had our meetings and walk-through before practice. I could tell as the day went on the team was trying to fight its way out of the darkness. The ice cracked for the team when Pete Mitchell suggested Luzar get a mullet. The thought of seeing Lu with a mullet just made the guys smile. Besides that, he had been growing a mustache and nothing goes better with a mullet than a mustache. The mood began to lighten and the team was beginning to show signs of life again. We were following coach's lead and began to get back to the task of winning football games. The one thing that really pushed us over the top happened right after practice. Mr. Weaver talked to us all. This is not something he normally does. He told us the organization was fully behind the team and that he really believed in us. He also told us to light the fire in our bellies, to play with passion and to cut it lose. His words were just what the team needed. We left knowing our coach and our owner believed in us. I got home that night for a dinner that I already saw once. We ate leftovers for dinner. Leftovers are great in my house because I get to eat my wife's awesome cooking, twice. No joking. I really do like leftovers. I feel like a super hero saving the food from death in the trash. The dogs spent the night gloating about their victory Tuesday night in wrestling. I am going to get those two.
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Thursday was a much better day of practice. It was like there was a whole different team on the field, not one trying to get over a loss, but one that was looking for a win. It was great! There was a bounce in the guys' legs. The veterans were playing with new-found enthusiasm while the younger players had no choice but to follow. We went home Thursday with a good feeling in our hearts and minds about the weekend. We knew the Bengals were a better team then their record showed and that we had to bring our game with us, but we also could just feel in our hearts that we were not to be denied. Thursday night Rebekah and I got our Christmas tree. When we got it, they told us our little tree was from Michigan. It had come a long way to make our Christmas bright. That evening to stay in the Christmas spirit we had to take our Christmas card picture. We called our personal photographer, Hanson. The Hansons came over that night for the picture. I had to wear a Santa hat this year in the picture and the dogs had to wear antlers. Personally, I think it's gonna be our best card yet.
Friday, December 13, 2002
The work boots and the cowboy hat were in full effect on Bengal Friday. The only thing that could have made me more ready for work would have been a lunch pail. I could tell the team felt the same as I did. We were all ready to work. The day flew by and practice was over before we knew it. After practice, I grabbed my imaginary lunch pail and headed for home. Friday afternoon, Rebekah and I rearranged the furniture to make room for the tree. I directed Rebekah where to move everything. She sure is one strong lady. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching movies before we went to get cheesesteaks. Hanson and his wife came over a little early for dinner because we had to take our Christmas card picture again. Beau the dog gave Annie bunny ears the day before. After dinner Hanson came back over to watch a movie before they headed for home.
Saturday, December 14, 2002
I got to the office early Saturday morning. After one coffee, two doughnuts and one chicken sandwich, I was ready for the meetings and the walk-through. Following the meetings, the team and I headed out into the cold for the walk-through. As I walked outside, I saw numbers of fans braving the cold to show support for the Jaguars. There was even a sighting of the Joey Z. fan club. My fans have no fear of the cold. Those that did fight the elements were rewarded by coach as they were invited to watch the team on the field. It was great to have those good people there. The team's spirits were lifted just by their presence. Later that afternoon the team boarded the plane for Cincy. We landed and had the afternoon to rest before our meetings and snack. Hanson, myself and Danny Boyd spent the afternoon browsing the mall in downtown. I met my father-in-law, Paul, and a couple of his friends for dinner, before meetings. I hit the hay early, knowing I was going to need my rest for the next day.
Sunday, December 15, 2002
I got up early and after a cup of coffee and a pregame meal, we headed off for the stadium. The field was not in the best shape, but the Jaguars were ready to play the hand they had been dealt.