JACKSONVILLE – A day later, the emotions were still real. And raw.
This was Getaway Day for the Jaguars, the day after the last game of the season – an emotional day for any NFL team in any season and a doubly tough day at EverBank Field Monday.
Make that triply tough …
However many times you multiply, the total could be heard in the words of Jaguars players cleaning out lockers a day after a 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
And if you didn't hear it there, you darned sure could feel it from Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone.
"It's hard for me to stand up here and put a smile on my face," Marrone said Monday afternoon before addressing the 2017 Jaguars for the final time. "It does take a lot out of you when you fall short."
It is said time heals all words, and maybe that's true.
If so, these Jaguars needed more than 19 hours. As players early Monday afternoon went through the annual getaway-day ritual of stuffing a season's worth of belongings into large plastic bags, the emotions of Sunday were still real.
"I'm still hurt, because I know what this team was capable of," cornerback Aaron Colvin said.
Any NFL Getaway Day stuns with suddenness. One week, players and coaches are practicing and preparing as they have done for five or six months, and a game follows that preparation. Less than 24 hours later, goodbyes are being said.
It's hard enough to process the end of a normal season in less than 24 hours.
To process the end of a season as magical and emotional the Jaguars finished Sunday …
Well, it doesn't happen overnight – and it didn't happen during the time that a dramatic Sunday night turned into a Monday of what-ifs and goodbyes.
"You put so much work in from the time you start, then it all comes to a crashing halt like this," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "It's tough to sit back and think about that there are 32 teams in this league and there's only one happy at the end of the year."
There was a difference between this Getaway Day and recent Jaguars Getaway Days, of course – that the Jaguars this season weren't just one of a bunch of teams not happy.
No, this team was oh-so close to something oh-so memorable, and Marrone said that unquestionably made Monday particularly brutal. Marrone has been remarkably forthcoming with the media all season, and Jaguars fans who have followed this team closely know well his personality. Direct and honest, he seems to see little reason to say things are one way if he feels they are another. Marrone on Monday saw no reason to hide his hurt.
He opened his press conference with an emotional three minutes that serve as a fitting eulogy to this season. The entire press conference is on this website. If your emotions rose and fell with this team Sunday and through the rest of the season, it's worth the watch.
Marrone during the question-answer session of the press conference voiced what players in the locker room were feeling – that what made Monday so difficult wasn't just that the season was over.
All teams want to win the Super Bowl. All hope they're good enough. The Jaguars believed they were good enough, and proved it to themselves and a lot of others. They proved it on Sunday, and not being able to make the plays to actually get there left a sting that will take a whole to get unstung.
"We wanted more, and we knew that we had the ability to do it in our hearts – and that's what hurts," Marrone said. "If you feel lucky, then maybe you don't feel like you've earned that right in some capacity, then I think you can let it go quicker.
"When you feel like you've earned it, you feel like you were there, you feel you were good enough – you feel all those things – then it's on every individual."
That quote came when Marrone was asked when the hurt might fade. He answered by talking about getting back into the year-round grind that is NFL coaching, but also said there will always be reminders. A friend at the NFL Scouting Combine, for example, might tell a coach, "Hey, you guys did a good job."
"There's always that constant reminder," Marrone said, adding that with every congratulation will be the nagging thought: "We could have gotten more."
Yes, the Jaguars could have gotten more this season, and that knowledge will remain a long time – and in some sense, it will last a lifetime. In time, it will lessen. In time, it will be less raw. How long does something like that take?
After Monday, we know for sure it's more than 24 hours.