Tampa Bay Week
Monday, November 24
Frank Sinatra once sang that he wanted to be a part of it . . New York, New York . . After the heartbreaking defeat we suffered in that city, I don't think anyone in the locker room wanted to be a part of it. We all headed back to work on Monday morning emotionally and physically drained from the weekend. Everyone knows that physical tolls that the season has on the body. I mean, all you have to do is watch the game. You see people hitting like Donovan Darius and running the ball like Fred Taylor. You can understand why thy body aches. But not many people realize the emotional toll that goes on during the season. We players and coaches pour our hearts and souls into every single game. To see it come up just a tad bit short is murder to one's constitution. We reviewed the game film that afternoon as a team. We began to put it all behind us. After all, we had the Super Bowl Champs coming to see us under the nation's Sunday night spotlight. I left work later and headed home. In order to have plenty of fridge room for the turkey feast, Rebekah and I ate a dinner of leftovers before heading over to the Meester's for Bible study.
Tuesday, November 25
Rebekah and I enjoyed our day off, making the preparations for Thanksgiving. We picked up around the house and made our grocery list. That evening we had an appearance. It's pretty common for me to have a public spot, but for my wife, it was a new bag. We headed off for an autograph signing at Winn Dixie. We were there to promote the new Jaguar cookbook that had just gone on sale. If you haven't seen one of them yet, head to your local Winn Dixie or call the stadium and ask about them. They're $16.00 and jam-packed full of great recipes and bios and pictures of the families of the Jaguars. We've got players, coaches and partners in there. All proceeds are going to the Seamark Ranch for abused, neglected and orphaned children. What a place! ! You can read more about that, too, on the Jaguars website. For the two hours we were seated there, we signed countless numbers of autographs. Everyone was so impressed with our recipes in the book (and the pictures that we put in). There was even an appearance made by Jaguars Super Fan, Linda. She drove all the way in with her brother just to get her cookbook signed. What a fan! ! P. S. Thank you for the framed stitching. Love it! Following the appearance we pretended we were on the game show "Supermarket Sweep" and got our grocery shopping done in record time.
Wednesday, November 26
I drove to work Wednesday morning with visions of turkey in my head. I only had one more day to wait before I could chow down. Unfortunately I had four days to wait before the feast of juicy Buccaneers. We were going to see just how well we matched up against the defending World Champions. It was going to be a good test for our young team. We made our game plan preparations just like my wife was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, determined and focused.
We hit the practice field that afternoon with a fevered pitch. We knew we had to get in a good hard day's work because we were cutting the Thursday schedule just a touch in order to celebrate with our families. The day was just that, a good hard day's work. When I got home I was greeted by my parents, Big Bob and Linda. They drove down with their big dog, Moses, to celebrate the holiday. It's great to see family for the holidays! That evening we had steaks and ribs from Heavenly Ham in Erie, PA. (Compliments of Rebekah's brother, Matt.) Delish!! After dinner, I got pummeled from the dogs. It just didn't seem fair. They brought in the ringer, Moses. Yet again, they made quick work of me. It's too bad that my brother, Mike, didn't show up till later. He would have helped me out from under 250 pounds of fur. Dogs-8. Joe Z-3. Tie1.
Thursday, November 27
I woke up Thursday morning ready for turkey and all of the fixings. But before I could get my hands, and mouth, on any of it, I had to go to work for a while. Yes, even in the NFL we have to work on the holidays. After a morning of hard and focused work, despite the distraction of turkey, the team headed out to enjoy the day with their families. When I got home, I opened the door to my grandfather who had traveled in that morning from Tampa. It was awesome to see him. That afternoon, my dad and I started deep-frying the turkeys. We appreciated the extra help from our other guests, Seth Marler, his girlfriend, Riley, and Mike Wood (a.k.a. Woody). Rebekah and I really cherish the fact that we can open our home to our family and friends, especially the guys who don't have any other family around down here. We all enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, mostly prepared by Rebekah with help from my mother. 01' Rebekah sure is turning into quite the little homemaker. Overdosed with turkey and pumpkin pie, we settled in for an early night.
Friday, November 28
Back to the grindstone Friday morning. It was a little bit harder to fit on my boots and cowboy hat as I had packed on a few pounds from the day before. It seemed that everyone in the locker room felt a little bloated. It didn't matter, though, because we knew that the battle for Florida's bragging rights was coming quickly. The team's mind set was one of complete determination. Because this was going to be our only game in the national spotlight, we wanted the country to see just how good we really are. With our turkey just a bit more digested, we hit the practice field. Following practice I drove home and grabbed my dad and brother. (Grandpa had already left to go back to Tampa.) I would've taken Rebekah and my mom, but they were off to the female Disney World, the Buckler's Christmas Craft Fair. I just wish I could've been there, too, but I had to fit in my ritual cheese steaks. The guys really liked feeling a part of my tradition. That evening we took my parents and Mike to Bravo Ristorante for my dad's birthday and also my parents' anniversary celebrations. We were combining both into one night. The food was fantastic and the music was absolutely awesome. I had to do all I could to keep my mother from jumping up on the table and giving her own Broadway tunes renditions.
Saturday, November 29
I hit the locker room Saturday morning and was greeted by the familiar smell of donuts. Despite the food I'd taken in over the week, I still craved a donut. I could only eat a half, though. Depressing! I had to hide the other half so the guys wouldn't make fun of me and call me a wuss. The team had it's customary meetings and walk-thru. The preparations had been completed and soon the spotlight would be lit on the Jaguars. That afternoon Rebekah and I kissed my family good-bye (they all had to get back home for work and other commitments and couldn't stay for the game). With the house quieted down from the holiday hustle and bustle, we both settled in for an afternoon nap before our sushi and smoothie Saturday night. Rebekah kissed me good-bye and wished me good luck outside the hotel. She told me to comb my hair, tuck my shirt in and smile pretty for the cameras Sunday night. She'll be a great mom! or a fortune teller, for she seemed to know what lay ahead.