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Picking up the Pace


This wasn&39;t exactly the ideal start.

As the new writer, the prudent approach would have been to endear oneself to the star running back, the franchise player. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew also happens to be a very good, insightful quote.

All of which adds up to a guy the guy might need.


I made MJD mad. Even before I met him.

"Ever since Vic left, I thought I was the next guy in line," Jones-Drew told me in our first conversation, shortly after I took the Senior Writer position. "I thought I&39;d take over his little, &39;Ask Vic&39; column.

"I figure the more you can do in this league, the more you can last, so I figure it&39;s another opportunity for me to do something."

I, of course, was thankful immediately Jones-Drew didn&39;t get the job, and that he didn&39;t get former Senior Writer Vic Ketchman&39;s "little" column, either.

A week in, I&39;m even more so.

Fear not: editorials won&39;t update weekly my giddiness, but after a week, I wanted to make one personal point – that I am more convinced than ever this was the right move.

The primary reason:

The unbelievable interest in the team by the fans.

Not that I didn&39;t expect it. I had been forewarned by many that was a place of intense passion and interaction. Without question, that is the case.

No wonder MJD wanted the gig.

And now that we are a week in, it&39;s time for our first major step in the direction of finally getting down to less Hello-How-Are-You-I&39;m-the-New-Writer dialogue, and more of what is all about:


Because, at last, it&39;s combine time.

If there is an event indicative of the league&39;s ever-increasing profile over the last decade, it&39;s the NFL Scouting Combine. The Super Bowl long has been a media beast, as has the draft, but the combine?

When I first covered it in 2001, it was starting to grow. You&39;d hear stories about how only a few years before, the combine was covered a handful of writers staking out players and personnel types in hotel lobbies.

By &39;01, the media room was full and the event drew writers from about every newspaper covering an NFL team.

Now, you&39;ve got to see it to believe it.

Thursday through Saturday will be a steady parade of draft-eligible players answering and non-answering largely the same questions with the same non answers. They will stand at podiums, and sit at tables, and they will talk about being poked and prodded. At adjacent podiums, NFL personnel types will speak. Some will talk about prospects and some won&39;t, and at the end of the weekend, an NFL Network draft guy or two will offer opinions, and then everyone will head back to their respective team headquarters or training sites and prepare for two months of pre-draft rumors.

It&39;s a weekend days of chaos and 40 times, but if you pay attention you can start to glean some impressions, and once the doors at Lucas Oil Stadium close I hope to have begun forming the first ideas of how things might play out in late April.

I imagine while I&39;m there I&39;ll see my predecessor. I&39;ll give Rick your best, and I imagine we&39;ll exchange a few stories. He&39;ll laugh at the "Rick" thing, complain about Green Bay&39;s weather and I look forward to hearing his rosy outlook on puppies, Peyton and the passing game.

He&39;ll also tell me a few stories about the coaches and players, and while that will help, learning the players, coaches and the Jaguars&39; organizational approach is something I must go through step-by-step, day by day.

My first step came a couple of weeks back.

I talked to Jones-Drew on the phone, and after he gave me the obligatory grief for taking his job, we talked a while about other things. I had known already about his radio show, and that he was a media-, Twitter savvy guy. I also was struck by how aware he is of the importance of what he&39;s doing off the field, of how he&39;s preparing for life after football.

"Football only lasts so long," Jones-Drew said. "What I like to tell people is, &39;Once you start your NFL career, you&39;re on the back end of it, on the downslide.&39; Even though we&39;re focused on our job, you still have to look at what you want to do when you&39;re done.

"You never know how long your career&39;s going to be, so you have to do something."

We talked a while more. He told me he regretted not being able to attend the Pro Bowl in January. One reason, he said, was he would have liked to have been there with his 2006 draft mates – Marcedes Lewis and Montell Owens. He also talked about how although he hates the Colts and always will, he, too, respected many of their players. He said that was another thing he regretted about not going to the Pro Bowl, the chance to meet players from other teams, to get to know rivals.

When we hung up, I didn&39;t get the idea I knew Jones-Drew, but I got the idea I knew a bit more about him. I also got the idea I&39;ll enjoy getting to know him more.

I know I&39;ll enjoy the draft process and this week&39;s combine, too. The ride&39;s starting, and if I was looking forward to it last week, I&39;m flat-out ready for the pace to pick up now.

Even if making the star running back mad wasn&39;t exactly the ideal start.

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