JACKSONVILLE – Paul Posluszny doesn't take this for granted.
An eight-year veteran, the Jaguars' middle linebacker knows from experience nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. Perception doesn't guarantee anything, or being a familiar name. Pro Bowls don't, either.
Shoot, even playing really well doesn't always mean staying where you want to stay, so considering how much Posluszny likes what's going on in Jacksonville and considering he really likes being part of it …
Considering all of that, is Posluszny a happy guy as the Jaguars prepare for the 2014 season?
Absolutely and no doubt.
"I feel very fortunate," Posluszny said recently during the Jaguars' 2014 offseason, which concludes with a three-day mandatory veteran minicamp Tuesday through Thursday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
Those are the words of a happy player, a focused veteran. They're the words of a player teammates and coaches consider the rock of the defense – if not a coach on the field, really, really close.
They're also the words of a player who in a short time has become the second-most tenured Jaguars defender. And with Tyson Alualu – a starter the last four seasons – working behind Red Bryant at defensive end, no Jaguars defender has been in the starting lineup longer than Posluszny, who has started 47 of 48 games since signing as an unrestricted free agent from the Buffalo Bills in 2011.
He not only is the lone player remaining from that free agent class, he's arguably one of the team's best free-agent signings of the last decade.
"Sometimes you get so caught up in everybody else you forget just how steady he is and good he is," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said last week. "He's doing a tremendous job. He's playing with good speed. That's what you expect from Poz but we don't want to take it for granted."
His teammates absolutely don't take it for granted.
Everywhere on the Jaguars defense, "new" is the buzzword. The entire Jaguars starting secondary joined the team in 2013. The starting linebackers to either side of Posluszny joined in 2013 and 2014, respectively. On the line, everyone except Alualu joined since 2012.
That's change on a dramatic scale, and on a defense of young players finding their way, Posluszny's experience – and the consistency and reliability that comes with it – matters.
"It helps a lot," Jaguars second-year safety Johnathan Cyprien said. "It adds a lot of confidence, to know we have a general out there. He's like the center of the defense. He's going to start it all off. He's reliable. He's going to do the same thing and it's going to be the right thing."
Go around the Jaguars' locker room, and you hear similar sentiments. But even with the respect of teammates Posluszny said he feels fortunate to be in Jacksonville.
Yes, he made his first Pro Bowl last season, and yes, he was perhaps the team's best defensive player. But he's entering his eighth season and he has seen a locker room full of teammates change around him since his arrival.
Posluszny last week pointed to a nearby spot in the locker room, and spoke about Daryl Smith, who started next to Posluszny in 2011 and who Posluszny routinely called the Jaguars' best defensive player. The Jaguars opted to not re-sign Smith in the 2013 offseason. He had had a groin injury the year before. He was entering his 10th NFL season. But for a subtle difference here or there, Poslusnzy said, Smith's story could have been his own.
"Daryl Smith should be right here, and he's not," Posluszny said. "He's an outstanding player. That happens all the time with change. Even if he's playing at a high level, even if he's an outstanding player, if he doesn't fit the organization's view of things, then they make changes.
"I came in under a different general manager, and I'm still able to stay. I feel very fortunate. That easily could have been the case."
Posluszny's thankful to be in Jacksonville for pretty much the reasons most veterans around the Jaguars are thankful. He believes the changes in the last 18 months are working, and that the team will be special, but mostly he said it's the way the team is doing it under Bradley that's particularly special. He laughed recently when it was pointed out that because many of the players now playing around him are rookies and second-year players – and that because those players only have played with the Jaguars – they might think the entire NFL is like this.
"What we have here is very unique," he said. "As an older guy, you feel fortunate to be a part of it, because you know what else is out there and what things can easily be."
He added, "It's been busy. We had all of that change, all of that turnover. But you finally get a feeling that's complete. Now, we have the general manager and head coach. They're people we feel we can trust in the locker room. Now, we can continually build and get better.
"A couple of years from now, we're going to look back and say, 'Man, that was a special thing to be part of.' This group is going to be a playoff team at some point. It's a special thing to be a part of, to know we're building the foundation."
That's something Posluszny's not taking for granted. And it's why he's a pretty happy guy right now.