The following is Jaguars long-snapper Joe Zelenka's diary for Dec. 2-8.
Monday, December 2, 2002
I opened my eyes early Monday morning. I was still groggy from the previous day's events. My eyes turned to the clock. It screamed 5:30 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, but the memory of the loss to Pittsburgh would not let me stay in bed. I woke the dogs and headed outside. On our walk in the brisk morning air I tried to think of some of the good things that happened the day before. One thing shined through like the hot July sun; the first-ever meeting of the Joey Z fan club. That's one of the coolest things that has ever happened in my life. After the walk I did a quick overview of the paper (sports writers never have anything good to say after a loss). I gave a quick kiss to the wife and "kids" as I grabbed my flannel and headed off to the office. My guts needed some fuel. I grabbed a quick breakfast sandwich from on my way to work. My tank full, I got to work for a quick lift and a run before the team meeting. The mood in the locker room was not much fun. The team knew we had let another one slip away. Coach told us in the team meeting the character of a man is determined by how he reacts to the situation he's in. He told us we were going to see what kind of men we are. That being said, the mood of the team changed from one of depression to one of determination. We left work on Monday looking forward to the game with the Browns. Monday night was the night that I let my exterior illumination skills shine through. I placed just about 40 twinkle lights on our little patio. It feels like late afternoon out there all the time now. I just do not have the guts to do the Clark Griswold thing. Once I cleaned up, Rebekah and I headed off to eat chicken wings and watch Monday Night Football with Chris Hanson and his wife, Kasey. Chicken wings and football are a great combination as long as one has a little restraint. I do not have any restraint when it comes to chicken wings in hot sauce so we left the restaurant at halftime while I could still feel my tongue.
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
The dogs woke me up early on Tuesday morning. I did not realize that they were up to something when I began my walk to the front door to take them outside. They decided to get the fight started early and began the wrestling match. Not fully stretched, or even awake, they took full advantage of the situation. They made quick work of me. I began my day off with a humiliating defeat. The dogs took the lead 4-3. I took the dogs outside. As I read the paper and waited for my wife to awake, I thought it would be nice to surprise her with breakfast from one of her favorite spots. After a breakfast of lox and bagels, we made the plans for the day. We were to head to St. Augustine to hit some shops for Christmas gifts. The day was so exciting that I had to sleep the whole ride back to Jacksonville. The evening was uneventful with the wrestling done for the day. I took the dogs for a walk and headed off to bed. This was going to be a big week.
Wednesday, December 4, 2002
Wednesday began the work week for the Jaguars. The team looked determined to get back on the winning train. The troops began to show signs of life again. The fellas began to rally around each other. The attitude continued to pick up by the time practice began. We took to the fields looking to improve. We all went back to the fundamentals and focused on them. We focused on doing the little things right because, as coach told us, there would be no margin for error. As bloody Wednesday came to a close, the feeling of anticipation of a fight began to build in the locker room. That night for dinner, Rebekah made a great pizza. There's nothing like a good pizza pie in your belly. I walked the dogs and began to get myself mentally focused for the upcoming game versus the Browns. This is always a big game for me. I grew up in the shadows of the Browns practice facility and always cheered for them growing up, so I like to have a good showing against them. Besides that, my Dad was coming to town.
Thursday, December 5, 2002
The strains from Wednesday's practice still lingered inside the troops as we got to work on Thursday. Eyes were foggy, muscles and bones ached. As we went through our meetings and watched our film, the funk seemed to be lifted and by the time we went out for practice, all was renewed. The time on the practice field seemed to fly by. There were fewer mistakes and big plays were being made by our big-playmakers. The practice ended and the troops were sent home with a good hard work day under their hats. Thursday night for dinner I made plans to spend some time with Chris Hanson. My wife had planned a nice home-cooked meal. Yet, when I presented a chance to get together with the Hansons, the meat went back into the freezer. We traveled to the Orient for dinner as we enjoyed the delicacies of far-off China. Following our fortune cookies, which promised us good fortune soon, we went home. As I walked the dogs before bed, I began to hope the fortune cookie was right.
Friday, December 6, 2002
I put on my work boots and my cowboy hat and headed off to work early Friday morning. Wearing my beat-up work boots puts me in the mindset that I have to grab my hard hat and lunch pale and go to work. I just like the way I look in the cowboy hat. Man, I'm good looking! The troops took to the final day of practice like a hungry dog to a bone. We were flying around making plays and having fun. There was a renewed sense of excitement as the kickoff approached. Friday at the office ended with the traditional grilled cheese. Meester changed things up and instead of his regular patty melt, he went with a grilled ham and cheese. Meester is known to be a little crazy.
Friday afternoon, my father, Bob, got in town. Rebekah and I picked him up from the airport. We were both very excited to finally have him in Jacksonville for a visit and a game. Once he arrived and thawed out from being in freezing Cleveland, we headed to dinner. We went to have Philly cheese steaks. My dad just likes being part of my crazy pregame antics. After dinner we went home to watch "Bad Company," starring Chris Rock. It was a good, funny action thriller. I'm just glad I waited for the video.
Saturday, December 7, 2002
Following three doughnuts, two cups of coffee, one bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, a couple of meetings and a walk-through, I headed home from work. I got home just around lunch time and that meant a great chance to take my father for burgers and fries. I thought he would like a little of the local Jacksonville flavor. Our stomachs full, we headed out to increase my dad's collection of Jaguars products. As my dad and Rebekah shopped, I looked around at the Mark, Jimmy, Kyle and Freddy T products. I think the Joey Z line must have sold out. After our trip we went home. I got to take a nice nap while the rest of my family watched football. Later that evening I was dropped off at the hotel for meetings, snack and a good night's rest.
Sunday, December 8, 2002
I woke up early in the morning from a nightmare. I dreamed I was being pelted by beer bottles as I tried to play football. Plastic bottles can leave some emotional scars. I rubbed my eyes and feared a repeat performance when I realized we were playing at home and the fans in Jacksonville are way too classy for any shenanigans. We had our pregame meal and were off to the stadium. As I entered the field for warmups with Chris Hanson and Danny Boyd, the fan club was out in full force again; very cool. Warmups continued and as I stood there, I noticed a huge sign with "Go Joe" and "Go Deuce (Chris)" on it. I thought for a second that it could have been my dad, but then I remembered his seats were up higher. I guess Deuce and I are gaining fans. Both of us love having fans. With both signs and my dad there at the game with my lovely wife, I just felt something was going to happen. It did.