The future can wait.
Soon enough, Brad Meester said there will be tractors to drive, crops to plant, an idyllic post-NFL life to live. And the longest-tenured Jaguars player says it might even have come this off-season but for one critical thing:
The feeling he knows will come when the time is right, when it's time to retire? It wasn't there, and the 13-year veteran center said it had nothing to do with money, or squeezing 16 more games from a 35-year old body. Rather, it had to with what he saw around the Jaguars.
The right coaches, the right players, the right feeling . . .
The right . . .
Well, there was just a whole lot right that made it the wrong time to walk away.
"It isn't about how many years I get to play, or anything like that," he said. "I want to win a championship and I want to win a championship here. I truly believe we're doing the right stuff to do that. That's why I'm so excited to be back."
What keeps a man playing a boy's game? Why spend May in sweltering heat, pushing the body to do things it no longer wants to do?
For Meester, the reason he will be at EverBank Field Tuesday when the Jaguars open 2012 organized team activities is simple. He likes where the Jaguars are. And he believes they have a chance to win the Super Bowl.
"I'll be honest with you – if it was not the right situation, and I did not see it going the right way, I'd be back on the tractor," he said. "I'd be on the farm – ain't no doubt about it. I'd be in Iowa, putting some crops in and sitting on the tractor. I'm not there. I'm here."
Meester is not only the oldest player in the locker room, he is a walking franchise history. He has seen 12-4 and he has seen 5-11. He's the only player to have played with Mark Brunell and Blaine Gabbert, to have played for Tom Coughlin, Jack Del Rio and now, Mike Mularkey.
He has played on 12 Jaguars teams, and has played on teams with multiple Pro Bowl players. This team has a chance to be memorable, he says.
"When you're trying to build a team and getting the right group, it does take a little bit of time," Meester said. "People get impatient with that. They want to see results, but I look at all the positions and no matter what position you look at, we have the right type of guy.
"We've been adding to this team the right way. We've been growing that Jaguars brand, I guess, and that mentality this team is going to have. All positions are ready to go and it's definitely going to be a big year for us."
Meester said his faith that that's true stems not only from an improved roster, and not just the addition of Mularkey, but how those two elements have fused together this off-season.
"We had such great talent out there sometimes in the past, but it wasn't the right group of guys," Meester said. "Sometimes, you have individual guys who are unbelievable, but sometimes those aren't the right type of guy for a team. You look at our group now – we have a great group of guys who are going to do things the right way."
Meester's words are easy to say in the off-season. He gets that, but he said there is an energy around the franchise that goes beyond the feeling of a new coach.
"You don't automatically become a champion," he said. "We have to work our tails off. I'm excited because in 13 years this is the best group of guys I've seen around here in the sense of how hard we've worked and are working – especially at this time of year. You might have a group where it's like, 'OK, it's April or May; we'll turn it on in July.' It hasn't been that way. It's a group of guys who have really attacked it from Day One.
"Our season starts now. It doesn't start with August, or our first game. It starts now. We have that group of guys working to get better now. You can feel that championship type of team, how we're preparing and focusing. That's what's got me excited.
"I wanted to be a part of this and be here when we do win the championship.
And that, Meester said, was the only point, the only reason to return.
He talked last week of other goals. Yes, he wants to leave a legacy – and for him, that's in the form of an offensive line and a team that knows how to work, that does so without glory or praise.
And yes, he said, he realizes as he gets older, there are only so many opportunities.
"I realize the importance of this season," he said.
But mostly, he said, when he spent time in January considering whether or not to return, one thought continued kicking around his mind.
"I'd feel terrible if I left and we go win a championship," he said. "I don't know what I would do. It can end at any time whether you want it to or not, so it's about making the most of every year. That's what I'm trying to do this year – to make the most of every year and go win this thing. Because I really do believe we're doing the right things."
And because he does, he said for now at least, the future can wait.