Jack Del Rio likes to play games with his kickers. This morning, the result was almost painful to watch.
Missed field-goal tries by Jeff Chandler and Josh Scobee resulted in Del Rio and his coaching staff having to run a gasser, to the delight of their players, until the sight of a group of limping, laboring, not-so-old men provided a stern reminder of the toll football exacts on the human body.
Once upon a time, the coaches were players. One day, today's players will be coaches. The beat goes on.
"You could tell the young coaches on the staff," Jaguars wide receivers coach Kenny Anderson said. Anderson is not one of those young coaches.
Anderson, 54, played quarterback 16 years for the Cincinnati Bengals. He remains one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history, and came so close to being the only quarterback to beat Joe Montana in a Super Bowl.
Once upon a time, Anderson moved with grace. This morning, grace was replaced by stiffness. How did it happen? Get a copy of any sports section in America from the morning of Oct. 11, 1983, and the picture will give you your answer.
Anderson appeared in print all across America that day. He was shown with his head twisted so that his face appeared just above his name on the back of his shirt, a position that was the result of Steelers defensive end Keith Gary having violently facemasked Anderson in the previous night's Monday Night Football game.
"I can't jump out of bed and golf or jog," Anderson said. "I've got two pins in my hand from where I broke it and when a weather front comes through I can tell ahead of time."
Twenty-one years later, the facemask incident has left Anderson with a bad back that forced him to run with a stiff gait this morning.
Oh, yeah, football exacts a toll on the human body.
"It does on everybody. I probably came away better than a lot. If you play football for any length of time, your body is going to be affected," Anderson said.
Even Del Rio shows the effects of his long career. Don't let the handsome head coach's youthful appearance fool you. His knees are old; very old, as witnessed by this morning's jog across the field.
"You don't realize it until you do something like that. It's not like stepping on a treadmill," running backs coach Anthony Lynn said.
Lynn's career in the NFL wasn't especially long. He played six seasons as a running back with the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. But he played football long enough to accumulate four ankle surgeries and six knee surgeries. At 34, Lynn knows what lies ahead.
"I'm bone on bone in my left knee. I'm a candidate for a knee replacement," Lynn said.
It's the same old story. Everybody who's ever played this game has battle scars, and in some cases the hurts are debilitating. But, amazingly, there's no regret. If it's a fraternity that shares its aches and pains, it also shares its passion for the game.
"Don't regret it; not one day," Lynn said. "When you're playing, you're living for the moment."
"I don't think there's one of us who ever thinks of it," Anderson said of regret.
Not even as they struggle to make it across the same field on which they once galloped.
In other news, Del Rio concluded the Jaguars' next-to-last-week of spring drills with a post-practice barbecue lunch in the practice-field pavilion area.