Monday, December 31, 2007

Unfulfilled expectations...

If every year of my life was a chapter in a book, that's what I'd call 2007 - "Unfulfilled Expectations" - at least when it comes to Ryan's football season. It just didn't quite go the way we'd hoped, and now it's over, really over. Ryan brought home two big boxes today after cleaning out his locker at One Bills Drive (he shipped a third home to Texas). What a fitting way to end 2007 - we can now close the book on this chapter of our lives and hopefully move on to a better new year.

Ryan had a good talk with one of his coaches today. Everything we've been thinking was basically confirmed. Someone on the coaching staff just didn't want Ryan on that field for one reason or another, and once a coach makes up his mind, that's pretty much it. It wouldn't have mattered how well Ryan played or what he could've contributed at that point - he was done. It still begs the question though - why didn't they just cut him mid-season once this decision was made? We don't have an answer for that and I don't think we ever will.

Ryan's coach also confirmed that Ryan was a victim of the youth movement going on here in Buffalo. This team is rebuilding again (it seems like they have been since we got here), and there just aren't that many spots on the roster for aging vets. It sucks to get "old" in the NFL - at 32, Ryan's seemingly washed up. That cracks me up. He ran a 4.6 40 the other day - that's faster than what we'll see some college tight ends entering the draft run. But I guess at 32 you're supposed to be slowing down, and for this team, it was reason enough to write Ryan off.

It's nice to have confirmation of what we've known all along though. It definitely provides some answers for us, and it's a little easier to bring closure to this situation.

So what now? Again, we'll wait. We're at the mercy of the 31 other NFL teams now - hopefully once the free agency period begins, we'll end up with a new team (someplace warm would be nice). In the meantime, we'll work on making 2008 one of our best years yet - it will be interesting to look back a year from now to see what I decide to entitle next year's chapter...

Happy new year everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Well, this is it...

It's 1 p.m. E.S.T. - start time for the Bills-Eagles game. It's the last game of this really long and trying football season. I can't say I'm sorry to see it end. Having to overcome the emotional blow of Kevin Everett's early season career-ending injury to not seeing Ryan suited up the latter part of the year has certainly taken it's toll. It makes Ryan's final days as part of the Buffalo Bills family bittersweet to say the least.

Ryan's been incredibly blessed. After struggling tremendously to stick with a team his first couple of years in the leauge and then sitting out two seasons, Ryan has overcome unbelievable odds to have come this far. We've seen players come and go, survived three coaching staff changes, etc. We still have to pinch ourselves occasionally when we think about how long we've been with one team. Ryan doesn't take a day of it for granted either - he's been incredibly grateful for the opportunities afforded him here.

We hate that things ended the way they did - it would've been awesome for Ryan to be out on that field today with the guys he's come to know and love as brothers - they are family. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. I know it'll really hit Ryan tomorrow - he has to go in and meet with his coach, clean out his locker for the last time and say his goodbyes. Everything is just so, well, final. He'll feel it driving away from One Bills Drive tomorrow - no doubt.

We're hopeful of what the future holds. There are 31 other NFL teams out there who might be interested in a versatile tight end/fullback/special teams ace. This offseason will undoubtedly be a little stressful with all of the unknowns, but we're confident that God has a plan for us, and that another door will open. Change can be good, and we look forward to the challenges ahead.

So let's go Buffalo!!!!

(ok, seriously, I'm on my way to go take a nap...)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A year in pictures...

Some snapshots from the past year...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

One crazy Sunday...

Today should be interesting...

Will woke up this morning at about 5:30 and never quite made it back to sleep. On a normal day, this wouldn't be a problem because I'd crash with him at nap time. But today's gameday, and the Bills take on the Giants at the Ralph at 1 p.m. so there won't be any napping.

The weather today is unreal too. Crazy, gusting winds that have already blown away some of Will's toys in the backyard. It's supposed to start raining soon, and the temperature is supposed to drop drastically over the next several hours with the rain turning into a slushy mix of sleet and snow. Thank goodness I'm sitting inside at the game today.

There is a bit of drama and excitement surrounding today's game. There are reports that Kevin Everett is going to walk onto the field today. Here's the kicker - the young man he collided with during that fateful game against the Broncos at the beginning of the season now plays for the Giants, so there is speculation that they are going to walk on the field together. Needless to say, that would be an amazing moment.

Today is going to be very bittersweet. It's most likely Ryan's last home game as a Buffalo Bill, and like in recent Sunday's past, he won't be suiting up. This is emotional for me, so I know it has to be terribly emotional for him. I have to admit that I lost some sleep last night thinking about how unfair and anticlimactic this is. It really makes me sad.

Even tougher is the fact that a lot of my friends here will be leaving tonight after the game to head home for the offseason since next week's game is an away game. I'm not good at goodbyes - I cry A LOT! So I'll have to put on my happy face when this evening when I'm actually falling apart inside. That's never fun.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I dread going to the movies on a weekend night. Without fail, there's a group of obnoxious young kids sitting at the top of the theater being, well, obnoxious. I know I must be getting old, because I much prefer to catch a mid-afternoon matinee so that I can avoid loud, rowdy kids interrupting the $10 movie I'm paying to see (factor in snacks and a babysitter, and the cost of going to a movie doubles).

Ryan and I decided to see "I Am Legend" this evening. It was good - very entertaining. But there were those pesky kids. In the back to the left of us was a rowdy group who couldn't shut up before the movie. Ryan went and told the movie police to keep an eye on them. A guy came in and said something to the kids - no more problems from them.

In the row in front of us and a several seats to the left were three teenage boys. With about 10 minutes left in the movie, when all was dead silent, one of them decided to pass gas for all to hear. That didn't make me mad or anything.

Finally, in the back and to the right of us was a young kid who decided to pull out and use a blow horn (you know, like the ones used to start races) right at the end of the movie. Ryan and I just kind of looked at each other and shook our heads. Well, the kid got away with it once, so he decided to try it again in the hallway. Little did he know that (a) the manager and a cop were right down the hall and (b) that I was a couple of feet behind him already annoyed with the obnoxious kids from the movie. The manager comes around the corner looking for the culprit, and I happily pointed like they do in the old crime dramas: "IT WAS HIM."

The cop goes after the kid and stops him right as he's about to exit the the front doors. Poor kid - his dad was waiting in his car for him at the curb and saw the kid get stopped. Oh boy - dad was not happy with his son at all. Ryan and I were pleased that we got some justice tonight. Obnoxious kids in the movie theater beware, I will tell on you.

Ryan did mention that he was that obnoxious kid when he was younger. I'm sure I had my moments. I specifically remember enjoying throwing popcorn at people from the back row. Pay back, I guess...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A death during the season...

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. Having to deal with it during the football season is exponentially more difficult because it's not always practical or possible to be with one's family during the difficult times. It's not so easy to just take a couple of days off to fly home and attend a funeral - the show, I mean game, must go on.

Ryan's grandma passed away last night. I received the news from Ryan's mom this morning, and I immediately teared up because I knew that meant having to track down Ryan at work to give him the news. See, if Ryan had a normal job, I'd call his extension at work and give him the news myself, right? Instead, I have to call the Bills and talk to someone who then has to go pull Ryan out of meetings or practice to deliver the bad news. OUCH. Ryan called me back and he seems to be doing okay. I know he wishes he could be with his family right now, and it just isn't going to happen. The funeral is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. - there's no way Ryan would be able to attend the funeral on the west coast and make it back to Buffalo in time for Sunday's game. Hopefully we'll find our own way to get some closure - in the meantime, please keep our family in your prayers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow day!!!

Today is officially our first snow day of the year, so Will and I are chillin' at home again today. It has stopped snowing however, so hopefully after Will's nap we can got outside and enjoy the fresh snow for a little bit, or until we get too cold and have to come back inside. Here's what our backyard looks like right now.

The Bills got stuck in Cleveland last night after the game. They were all set to board the team plane back to Buffalo this morning but it's stuck in the mud at the airport! They've now boarded buses to make the roadtrip home. Poor guys. I'm sure this is not how they planned on spending their Monday.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The calm before the storm...

Buffalo is in the direct path of a nasty storm - it's supposed to hit sometime this evening and snow heavily through Monday morning. We could get up to 18 inches! It's eerily peaceful outside right now, but Ryan just called and said the team plane had to circle the airport for a while in Cleveland because the runways were shut down. And that's the storm that's headed our way.

Tomorrow's going to be a long day. We're ready in case the power goes out. We have a generator, tons of batteries, etc. I'm from earthquake country - I know how to put a preparedness kit together. Let's hope we won't need it though.

Well, at least if the electricity or Directv go out tomorrow, I won't have to worry about missing Ryan's game - he's not suiting up again this weekend.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Go out and grab a Sports Illustrated!!!!

This week's cover story is about Kevin Everett, Ryan's teammate who suffered a severe spinal cord injury at the beginning of the season. The initial prognosis was grim - Kevin's life was in jeopardy, and he'd probably never walk again. As you can see from this picture taken recently, Kevin's made remarkable strides (literally) in his recovery. I read the story online yesterday and I couldn't stop crying - he and his family are such an inspiration. You've got to check the article out!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The belly - about 15 weeks...

So I know you've all been anxiously waiting to see the belly. Honestly, I've been waiting a bit because there just isn't much there yet. This is almost embarassing, but here it is!

I carried the exact same way with Will, so this doesn't shock me too much. I promise the belly will grow! I do feel like my jeans got tighter around the midsection this time around - I'll be pulling out the belly bands soon!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I should start flipping a coin...

After a decent showing in Washington last week, Ryan is once again not suiting up for the game this weekend against Miami. That makes three games he hasn't suited up for this season (not including the one week he didn't suit up because he was "injured"). Just wanted to keep you posted...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On dealing with the paparazzi...

We had our first blanketing of snow this morning - it was really pretty outside, but COLD! I'm still working on getting a picture of Will for our Christmas cards, so we ventured outside. I snapped furiously while he walked around hoping to get one good shot, and this is what I came up with....
This is Will's "no pictures please" look. Classic Will.

Look for #88!

Ryan's suiting up today against the Redskins!!!

No doubt it's going to be a difficult game with the Redskins' recent loss of teammate Sean Taylor. What a terrible tragedy. Sean's death was the 4th for the NFL this year - four young lives, gone. It just hurts my heart.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

This sucks!!!!

I have a urinary tract infection. The symptoms started Thursday afternoon. I felt a dull ache in my lower abdomen that migrated to my lower back. I didn't think too much of it, and was able to get through the day without a problem.

Then, at 3 a.m. on Friday morning, I woke up and was in a good amount of pain. I just couldn't get comfortable. I was finally able to get back to sleep. I called my ob's office first thing in the morning - I was convinced I was in the process of a miscarriage or something. Generally, I'm an optimist, but I tend to be a realist and can conjure up the worst case scenario in a heartbeat to prepare myself for bad news. The earliest the doctor's office could get me in was 1:45 in the afternoon.

I sat in pain most of the day. And the pain got worse. I'd be driving down the street in tears because my back hurt so bad and I was so uncomfortable. Once at the doctor's office, I could tell that Friday afternoon "rush" was on! The staff just sort of took their time. No one was in much of a hurry. All the while, I'm still thinking I'm getting ready to lose the baby.

The nurse calls me back and I go through the usual routine - pee in a cup, get weighed, have my blood pressure checked, etc. The nurse flippantly says, "Oh, you've got blood in your urine." No further explanation. I probably went white. Again, assuming the worst, I just knew I was having a miscarriage. She took me back into the examination room, and I was happy to hear bean's heartbeat pumping right along at 150 beats per minute. Still the best sound ever. The nurse said the midwife would be in shortly.

Ten minutes pass. Twenty. Thirty. Almost 40 minutes later the midwife casually makes her appearance as tears are literally streaming down my face. I'm scared, I'm in pain, and she doesn't seem to care one bit. Aren't midwives supposed to be nurturing, more caring? I got nothing. After the brief examination, she concluded I had a UTI. Relieved that nothing was wrong with the baby, I immediately knew I was in for a fight - I've heard that UTIs are no joke. She prescribed me an antibiotic and I was on my way.

Being the trooper I am, I came home to get ready for a major outreach event we do every year. It's called "Night With the Bills" and it's held at the Buffalo Christian Center. It's a really fun night with music, testimonies, the whole nine yards and the kids just love it. So I hop in the shower to wash my hair. Ouch. I'm in pain. I get out and conjure up the energy to blow dry my hair. Ok, I don't feel good at all. By the time I was done, I wanted to ball up in pain. But I couldn't - that hurt too much. It hurt to stand, it hurt to lay down, it hurt to sit, it hurt to bend down. I called my doctor's answering service - I needed to know what was going on. The person on call, once I actually got in touch with her over 30 minutes after my initial call, almost yelled at me saying "Well what do you want me to do from here? Go to the emergency room!" Shock, coupled with fear, and I was a wreck - completely sobbing.

Interestingly enough, the pain subsided in all the chaos. I finally started feeling a bit better. Recognizing that I wasn't going to make it to the event, I succumbed to the comforts of my bed and went to sleep. Actually, I had a really good night's sleep - better than I've had in a while. I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to go.

I popped my antibiotic and got into "mommy mode." As I prepared Will's breakfast, I felt a familiar tinge in my back. Uh oh - the pain's coming back. Sure enough, within the hour, I was once again in pretty bad pain and started contemplating a trip to the emergency room. But this is no easy feat - Ryan's at work and will be leaving this afternoon for Washington D.C. A trip to the emergency room would require some coordination. But I have to prepare myself for the option and I've got some people on call just in case.

As of right now, the pain isn't horrible, but I'm not feeling great. I called the helpful 24 hour nurse line provided by our insurance company (I refuse to call my doctor's office) and was told that if the pain gets worse, I should go to the hospital because I may have a kidney stone. So we're gonna hang on for a little while to see how I'm feeling. If the pain comes back by this evening, I'll head to the emergency room for some pain medication. But what a major PIA!

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's a...


Gotcha, didn't I? For those of you wondering, Ryan and I have decided to not find out the baby's sex this time around. It gives us a little something to look forward to! It will be so fun hearing "It's a (fill in the blank)" in the delivery room on baby's birthday.

I had my nuchal translucency ultrasound this morning and I got my first look at our little bean! This ultrasound is used to detect any abnormalities in the baby such as Down's Syndrome. The doctors checked the bridge of the nose to make sure it was forming (and it is) and also looked at the thickness of the back of the baby's neck (it's nice and thin like it should be). The baby looks wonderful! Everything came back just as it should. Based on this test, the chances of having a baby with Down's Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormality is very slim.

This is a busy baby. Bean bounced around a lot and was constantly moving its arms and legs. It even looked as if it pushed off with its legs or jumped a couple of times. It's such a neat thing to see.

Interestingly, the baby's measurements are putting me at 13.5 weeks, not 12.5 weeks. Based on today's ultrasound, we're looking at a May 28th due date instead of June 3rd.

Here are some more of the little bean's first shots! Enjoy!

Giving us a thumbs up!!!!

Sticking out its tongue...

Crossing its arms...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I was holding out hope...

But Ryan is inactive this week against the Jaguars. He said he'd call if he wasn't dressing - it's about 45 minutes before kick off and I haven't heard from him yet. So even though he said this morning he was 90% sure he wasn't suiting up, there was still a chance. The Bills posted their inactives on their website, and Ryan's on the list, so he's a no-go this week.

I'm bummed for Ryan. He played in Jacksonville back in 2001, and there's always something to be said about getting on the field and playing a team that cut you before. But not today...

God must love me though. My pregnant behind is exhausted after a rough night with Will. I need a nap. If Ryan was dressed today, I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off the t.v. Now, if I dose off, I won't feel so bad...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

This Christmas...

Ryan and I went to the movies last night and saw "This Christmas." This is a fun movie about love, hurt, celebration, pain, disappointment, laughter, hope. In the end, it's all about the importance of family.

I come from a very close family, most of whom are in Los Angeles. Holidays are always a big deal - everyone usually meets up at granny's or my mom's for dinner. And the get-togethers often times go into the wee hours of the night. I miss those times.

I called my mom in California after the movie to tell her how great it was. She told me she was making some food for my nephew Corey who I haven't talked to in a while. She passed the phone to him and we got to chit chat. Next, he passed the phone to his mom, my sister Andrea. After chatting with her a bit, she handed the phone to my other sister Kristi. As we wrapped up our conversation and we said our goodbyes, my eyes started tearing up. I miss my family. Being on the other side of the country definitely takes its toll. I'm a little homesick.

Enter another aspect of the NFL life that is really unique - we haven't spent the holidays with family since 2002. The NFL season coincides with Thanksgiving and Christmas. On these holidays, Ryan is either at practice most of the day or getting ready for a game unless the holidays happen to fall on a Tuesday (the guys' day off). The coaches do make some concessions - the guys usually get to go in a little later so that they can be home to open gifts with their kids. And practice and meetings usually run a little bit shorter. After practice, we usually end up at the homes of friends which is always fun. But there's something to be said about spending the holidays with family.

There are positives to our situation - we haven't had to contend with the travel nightmares posed by the holidays. But I'd sacrifice a headache if it meant being able to spend the holidays with family. I look forward to the day when that's a possibility again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We've got a heartbeat!!!

I had an appointment this morning and the nurse found the baby's heartbeat right away!!! The little one's heartbeat was beating at a strong 152 beats per minute!

It all seems real now. The first couple of months of pregnancy, you feel sick, tired, exhausted even. When you hear that heartbeat, all of a sudden, all of the misery seems worth it. We're having a baby! Woo!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It looks official!

Looks like Ryan is going to be on the list of inactives for tomorrow night's primetime nationally televised game against the Patriots. I know a bunch of you may wonder tomorrow night why you don't see #88 on the field - I wish I had an answer for you.

"Well, is he hurt." That's usually the question people ask when I tell them the news. Nope. Ryan's healthy. 100% ready to go. So healthy that he hasn't had to go in for treatment of any sort in a while.

The next comment - "Well, he played last week and he looked really good out there, especially when he went in at tight end." Yep, he sure did. After not getting a tight end rep in practice for over a year, Ryan went in for an injured Robert Royal and did a pretty good job.

The final question - "Well, what the heck is going on?" My guess is as good as anybody else's.

Ryan's a trooper though. He's a man of character who is trying to maintain his dignity through all of this. And he's doing a pretty darn good job. He's trying hard not to doubt his abilities, even though he's being told over and over again that he's just not good enough. Our saving grace is knowing that this is all part of God's plan. Knowing that He's in control, that all of this is happening for a reason, makes the pill a little easier to swallow.

I have to be honest with you - I enjoy the game of football a lot more when Ryan isn't playing. How terrible is that? But there's something to be said for knowing that when the clock reaches zero at the end of the 4th quarter, my hubby is going to walk out of the players' tunnel and we're not going to have to do our usual post-game injury inventory. I worry so much when he's out on that field. While I'd prefer it if he were playing, I'm totally at peace with the fact that my husband will be whole at the end of the day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth...

Just not right now!!!

I would love to sit here and write about how frustrating this football season has been. I'd love to tell you all the juicy details about the behind-the-scenes politics Ryan's dealing with right now. I wish I could tell you why Wednesdays are quickly becoming bad news days for us. I would give anything to tell you why this team is making me so sad. But I can't. Sorry. Not right now.

There's an unspoken rule that NFL wives have to remain quiet - we dare not say anything that might reveal what life in the NFL is really like. There is a reason for this - the NFL is a small world, and it's amazing how quickly a little gossip can spread. So for now, I'll just keep these things to myself.

I'll continue to be grateful for the opportunities that present themselves now. I'll try not to spend too much time thinking about what tomorrow may hold. I most certainly will do my best to stop getting my hopes up, because disappointment is starting to take its toll.

But I do promise that some day, I'm going to write a juicy fictional book based on fact about what life in professional sports is like. I'll share the tears, joy, pain, triumphs, etc. that my life has involved the past several years. It's been an incredible ride, one that most certainly isn't over yet - there are definitely more curves, loops, drops and curly cues coming our way. So stay tuned!!! Things are going to get interesting over the next couple of weeks...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

When strawberries attack...

Will loves these freeze-dried strawberries called Crunchies. It's the only way we can get him to eat any sort of fruit. Well, I guess the last bag we gave him had gotten a little crunchy and smashed itself. Here's what resulted...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A night of celebration...

Last night we attended the Hunter's Hope Ball. It was an incredible evening. I just love getting all dressed up - I spend so much time in jeans and a sweatshirt chasing Will around that it's fun to get all dolled up and glamorous.

Hunter's Hope was founded in 1997 by NFL Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bill Jim Kelly and his wife Jill. Their son Hunter was born with Krabbe's Disease. The disease claimed little Hunter's life back in 2005, but his legacy lives on through his parents' work with the foundation. They have raised millions of dollars to aid in the research and eradication of the disease, and they've also worked with state and federal government agencies to advocate for infant screening for diseases like Krabbe's. If you'd like more info, check out

The night wasn't without a little bit of drama though. I'm a sucker for a silent auction, and there was some awesome stuff up for grabs last night. I came across this kick butt scrapbooking stuff. I love scrapbooking - it's definitely my hobby. And for anyone who does it, you know how expensive it it! There were three baskets full of all kinds of stuff - albums, paper, computer software. So I decided that this was the item I'd be going home with.

With ten minutes left to go in the bidding process, I decided to go up and stake my claim. I noticed someone had outbid me. Not a problem - I just increased my bid and waited right next to the sheet. My competition surfaced, and I told her in my most friendly happy voice that I really wanted the item and that I was going to outbid her. She gave me a dirty look and walked away. I watched her though - she didn't go to far. Sure enough, with ten seconds left in the bidding, she makes a beeline for the bid sheet. When she moved, I moved. She scrambled as she tried to find a pen, and by the time she started writing, I'd already grabbed another pen and upped my bid. THREE, TWO, ONE! Time ran out, and as she tried to write herself in, the attendant came and grabbed the bid sheet (thank goodness I'd seen him a couple minutes earlier and pleaded with him to pick up that sheet first).

My competitive nature kicked in and I came away victorious. Of course, there's a woman somewhere in Buffalo really mad at me right now, but I suggest she work on her silent auction beat down skills!

I did get outbid on an awesome Brett Favre helmet - I only lost by $25!!! Hey, you can't win them all.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Another Buffalo Winter...

It had become my obsession - especially with the way this football season is turning out for Ryan. When I started stressing out, I'd focus on going home. This coming March will mark the two year anniversary of the "flood" that destroyed our home. But knowing we were going back to Texas in a couple of months was so comforting - it was nice to have something to look forward to. I thought about finally enjoying the warmth of a Dallas winter and I'd get excited about decorating the house. I've thought about the first meal I'd cook in my new kitchen, or the first movie we'd watch as a family in our media room. I'd even started making plans for barbecues and baby showers with friends. Well, my homecoming isn't going to happen just yet - we've decided to stay in Buffalo.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working on figuring out the best way to transition Will into the special education system back home. After a couple of phone calls, I quickly realized how incredibly fortunate we've been here in Buffalo. Will is in a class with only four other students. He receives individualized speech therapy, occupational therapy, and soon, music therapy. He's thrived at his school. And most notable - it's all been free. FREE!!!! Long story short, our school district in Texas does not provide anything comparable to the services Will is currently receiving. In order for us ensure that he was getting the services he needs, we'd have to pay out of pocket for either a private school or private therapy.

The other day, I freaked out when I found a private school for children with learning disabilities - the tuition for the full day program is $10,000 a year. For a four-year-old!!!! Unreal. After hearing from friends with preschool age kids though, I realized that that wasn't a ridiculous amount to pay for preschool. But as I was doing more and more research on different schools in the Dallas-area, things became more and more depressing. A school that provides ABA services (ABA is a teaching method for children with autism) can run around $48,000 per year!!! I almost started crying. Who can afford that?

That's when the idea popped into my mind - let's stay in Buffalo and let Will finish out the school year here. I immediately shot the idea down as being ludicrous, but the more and more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In the grand scheme of things, I can sacrifice six more months in Buffalo for the sake of my kid. After discussing it with Ryan, we decided it was the right thing to do. Ryan will head home to Texas after the football season to get the house situated. He'll unpack furniture and boxes. He'll make our house a home again. It will be all ready for us to visit when Will has his spring break! Ryan will probably go back and forth between Texas and Buffalo during the offseason until we realize what team he'll end up with. And that's fine. The thought of having to pay a mortgage and two rents for a couple of months stresses me out a bit. But that's okay.

This means we'll also have the baby here in Buffalo. Honestly, it's probably for the best. We have an incredible support network here of friends, babysitters, etc. who will be able to help out when the baby is born. We'll plan on heading home mid-to-late June.

As much as this wasn't my original plan, it is now THE plan. When we agreed to this last night, it was as if an amazing burden had been lifted. I slept better last night than I have in a really long time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The "S" Word...

It's coming - our first snow will be here tomorrow. Joy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Will goes trick-or-treating!

Will went trick-or-treating tonight for the first time ever! He was the cutest little koala bear. Not really sure about what was going on, Will wasn't quite interested in the whole deal. But he sure was cute.

Not the next "Harry Potter"...

I received a disturbing email the other day regarding the new Nicole Kidman flick The Golden Compass. Turns out the author is an atheist, and his trilogy is basically about killing God. Here is more information about this issue if your're interested.

The movie preview looks really good. And I love Nicole Kidman. Naturally, this was on my list to see. But trust no one in this family will do anything to support this!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Vote for Ryan!!!

For the first time in Ryan's professional career, he's listed on the Pro Bowl ballot. Here's the link - VOTE FOR HIM!!!! He's listed under the AFC fullbacks.

Send this link to anyone and everyone you know!!!


It's Sunday morning - gameday. The Bills take on the Jets at the Meadowlands at 4pm. But today is a bit different, because I'll be sitting at home watching the game with Ryan. He wasn't able to travel with the team this weekend because he's nursing a strained hamstring. Believe me when I say that sitting there watching a game with your husband that he should be playing in is beyond weird.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hard Candy Christmas...

I was way too young the first time I saw the movie Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. If I had to guess, I was probably 6 or 7. Not really aware of what was really going on in the movie (thank goodness), I remember being infatuated with the singing, dancing and costumes. There was one song in particular that has stuck with me all of these years. As the "girls" pack up and head out as their ranch is being closed down, they sing the song "Hard Candy Christmas." I remember being so sad because I realized everyone was saying goodbye. Since then, this song always comes to mind when I have to part ways with a good friend.

Last night I had to say goodbye to my good friend Blake. Her husband Brad was cut at the end of training camp. They finally sold their house and are heading back to Chicago. I couldn't help but to cry as we hugged and said our goodbyes. Blake has been an awesome friend - she's always the life of the party and will have you laughing for days. I know we'll stay in touch, but not having her here is going to be tough.

Prior to Ryan and I arriving in Buffalo years ago, we were always the ones packing up and leaving. Since being here, we've seen so many wonderful people come and go. It just sucks. It's so bad that some wives choose not to bond with the other girls because of the constant uncertainty and heartache. That's not me though - my life is better because of the friendships I've formed over the years.

Leaving Blakes, I got in my car and headed home. Sure enough, within minutes of sitting in silence as I wiped tears from my eyes, the words popped back into my head...

"I'll be fine and dandy, Lord it's like a hard candy Christmas, I'm barely getting through tomorrow, but still I won't let sorrow bring me way down..."

Ryan update

As expected, Ryan didn't get any playing time on offense last week during the Bills' win over the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, he tweaked his quadricep on the last special teams play of the game and has been limited in practice this week. He'll be a game time decision on Sunday when the Bills take on the Jets, so we'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just say "no!"

Fan chat rooms and message boards. For an NFL wife, they can be addicting. You want to see if there's any buzz about your husband. You're wondering if anyone's caught a glimpse of him doing something spectacular at training camp on a day you couldn't make it there. We're all nosey, and because our husbands don't fill us in all the time on what's going on, we rely on the news media and the all important fan boards to keep us posted. And that's all fine and dandy until someone says something bad about your man.

Over the years, posts have been both good and bad about Ryan. When he first came to Buffalo, he was often referred to as "camp fodder" - people thought he was just a camp body and that he wasn't going to make the team. Once he made the team, comments got a little bit better, but there were always people doubting his abilities. Now, in his fifth season with the team, I still read the occasional post about how bad he is. He has some support, but it seems as if there are always more people calling for his release. Good thing the coaches don't base their decisions on fan preference.

With the switch that's going to happen out there on the football field tomorrow, I can already anticipate what some of the message board posts will say. "Neufeld sucks - he got replaced by a rookie." "Neufeld's worthless - why has he been on this team so long anyway?" "Neufeld's days here are numbered - thank goodness!" I get my feelings hurt every time I read one of those posts. And knowing that they're coming, I figured it's a good time for me to go on message board hiatus for a while.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's the name of the game...

Without getting into too much detail, I need you to pray for Ryan.

He earned the starting fullback spot this year with the Bills, and has seen his playing time diminish over the past several weeks. Well, we found out today he may not get much playing time at all. Needless to say, this has been devastating news for us, so I ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Ryan is healthy, and for that, we're grateful. He'll continue to play his hardest and his best every time he's on the field - trust that he's thankful for any opportunity he's given.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Morning sickness... says who?

The first time around, a week before Will was born...

MORNING sickness. The title alone suggests that this is something I should anticipate dealing with between the hours of say 12am - 12pm. MORNING sickness. I should be able to plan activities and function normally in the afternoon and evening hours. MORNING sickness. Whoever came up with that phrase needs to be slapped. Trust me - there's no such thing. MORNING sickness can only be described as two months' worth of nausea, heartburn, indigestion (okay, just kidding - this is not a Pepto Bismol ad), etc. that pretty much lasts 24 hours a day. It sucks.

When I was pregnant with Will, I had morning sickness - I was pretty naseous and couldn't really eat much. I actually lost a couple of pounds my first trimester. But my first pregnancy was much different from this one for one reason only - back then I didn't have to cater to an energetic, rambunctious three-year-old. Back in the day, when I didn't feel well, I just crawled in the bed and watched Lifetime Television movies all day. Not anymore. So adding to the nausea, heartburn, indigestion, etc., I'm whipped. Completely and utterly exhausted. And it's only week six! The thought of it all makes me... well... nauseous.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

So what now???

The stage was set last night for a major upset. The 1-3 Bills took on the 4-0 Dallas Cowboys here in Buffalo. The weather was perfect and the crowd was pumped as the Bills were center stage on Monday Night Football for the first time in over a decade. The Bills had so much to prove and were playing with their hearts on their sleeves with the hopes of dethroning America's team.

The first three quarters were amazing. The defense stepped up in a major way and pummeled golden boy Tony Romo and the Dallas offense. Interception after interception, and even a Romo fumble, fueled the crowd of over 70,000 fans. We were all so hopeful - we were going to win. It was a great feeling.

When the fourth quarter rolled around, I got nervous. We were up 24-16, but our offense hadn't scored a touchdown up to this point. And we know how Buffalo likes to do things - a last minute field goal had already cost us a win earlier in the season. With that memory fresh in my mind, I just got quiet.

Sure enough, Romo ended up leading his team to a victory - the Cowboys kicked a field goal with seconds remaining on the clock. The final score was 25-24.

We've experienced a lot of losses throughout Ryan's career, but none have hurt quite like this one. We all stood in shock - we were so close to pulling of a major upset. To say it was devastating is a complete understatement. It was one of the best NFL games I've ever been to, but one I would soon like to forget.

We head into the bye this weekend still hopeful that we can turn the season around. We'll keep praying and hoping for the best.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Ryan hung out with a crew from over the weekend - check this out (you'll have to cut and paste the link - I couldn't get the video to post)...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I knew it...

Let's set the stage...

Our alma mater, UCLA, was taking on Notre Dame at home (the Rose Bowl) yesterday. The Fighting Irish had yet to win a game this season, and boy did that make me nervous. UCLA has done alright this season, but had an embarassing 40-point loss to Utah several weeks back. I commented to Ryan yesterday - "Watch. They (Notre Dame) are going to march right in there and beat us on our own turf." Well, wouldn't you know it, the Fighting Irish ran onto that field with their boxing gloves on and beat UCLA 20-6. I hate to say "I told you so' but...

At least Stanford tapped some USC booty yesterday - that softens the blow a little bit. I'm a fan of anyone who beats USC...

Friday, October 5, 2007

And the hits just keep on coming...

The Bills lost yet another player for the season today. Peerless Price, one of the team's premiere receivers, had surgery on his neck, thus ending his 2007 season. Peerless is the ninth Buffalo Bill who will go on injured reserve less than 5 games into the NFL season. To call the injuries to this team an epidemic seems like an understatement. We've not been able to get through a week without experiencing some season-ending catastropic injury. It's frightening really - I actually tense up every time Ryan's on the field. I don't watch the play - I watch him to make sure he gets up and can run off the field. I watch him when he gets to the sidelines to make sure he's not going to see a trainer for an ache or a pain. As all the fans are entertained by the razzle dazzle on the field, I only care that Ryan and his teammates are okay.

Injuries happen. It's inevitable. Every team will experience them. But this year they just seem so bad. You get used to guys pulling hamstrings, twisting ankles, etc. The neck and spinal injuries, the broken bones - these things just don't happen at such a high rate this early in the season.

I went through a plethora of emotions today when my good friend called telling me her husband was going in for surgery. The first was disbelief - how on earth could this be happening...again! Then I chuckled - seriously, how could this be happening? Then I cried - for Peerless and his family, knowing the uphill battle he faces in addition to coming to terms with the fact that his season is over. Finally, I got mad. It's just not fair. These are good guys who work hard who deserve to succeed. They are beat down and broken, yet they give their all and play with their hearts and souls every time they are on the field. It just makes you want to ask "why?" I don't think we'll ever know the answer to that....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The excitement is brewing...

The Bills will play their first Monday night football game here in Buffalo next week for the first time in over a decade. Even more exciting is that we're playing the Dallas Cowboys. Check this out - Ryan started his NFL career with Cowboys in 1999. The 'Boys decided that Ryan should play fullback instead of tight end. Well, here we are years later and Ryan is playing fullback again. He's super excited about getting out there in front of Jerry Jones and showing him what he's capable of. Who knows? Jerry could have a change of heart and might pick Ryan up after the season. Then we could live at home while Ryan played. Now that's just too much like right.

The Cowboys are good - they are 4-0. It'll be a tough game, but a blast nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's the news you've been waiting for...

The Neufelds are expecting!!!

Baby Neufeld should make his or her appearance in early June. Check back for updates!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

'Night, 'night...

Will is pretty good about going to bed. Bedtime is usually around 9 p.m. We'll put him in his crib, shut off the lights and say "'night, 'night" on our way out.

Last night was like any other night. We went through the bedtime ritual, and knowing that my kiddo was down for the count, I decided to take care of some business. After a shower, some cleaning, etc., I figured he'd be sleeping and I went in to cover him up. The room was dark, but it was clear that Will WASN'T IN HIS CRIB! I about flipped. And after quickly scanning the room I still didn't see him. Sure enough, he was right under my feet - he'd climbed out of his crib and decided to sleep on his elephant chair.

Silly goose...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

So what do you think???

I found this clip on YouTube this morning. It shows a Patriots defensive player taking a shot at Bills quarterback JP Losman during last weekend's game. As a result of the hit, JP is out for a couple of weeks with a knee sprain. By the looks of the hit, JP was lucky - it could've been much, much worse.

The player will certainly be fined for the hit - some are even calling for a suspension. Take a look at the clip and tell me what you think - do you think he was going after the quarterback's knees, or was it an innocent tackle? Note - it was a late hit - JP had already thrown the ball.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hostile territory...

That's what I enter into when I travel to the Bills' away games. I always find myself surrounded by the minions of opposing fans who cheer when our guys don't play well, who get hostile and beligerent when they find out who I'm cheering for, etc. I have this horrible fear that I will have this same feeling this weekend when the Bills take on the Jets, AT HOME!!!!

The fans here in Buffalo are mad. They are just devastated that the Bills are 0-3 to start the season. Many on the fan boards are calling this team the worst team in NFL history (ouch). You know, if this team hadn't been decimated by injuries during the first three weeks of the season, if we were playing with a full deck of cards and still playing horribly, then I'd be concerned. But this team had to watch one of their teammates lay motionless on the turf after a spinal cord injury during game one of the season - no doubt each and every one of them questioned their own mortality, knowing that it could've been them lying there on the ground. The team's young but emerging defense has been slaughtered by injuries - numerous starters have already been put on season-ending injured-reserve while others suffered injuries that would keep them off the field for weeks, months even. I know these guys - their hearts are in this game and every single play they are out there on the field, they are giving it their all. But the emotional and physical rollercoaster they've been on only four weeks into the season would devastate any team.

I understand and can empathize with fan frustrations. I want to win too! For me, it may even be a little worse because I deal with the consequences of how the season is progressing every time Ryan comes home. His body aches - he's on the field more now having to fill in for other guys who've been injured. He's mentally exhausted from having to deal with losing teammates and taking on new assignments. He misses Kevin. For Ryan, football is his life and it's hard to just leave his emotions on the field.

Hostile territory - I wonder if it's coming. I'm almost sure it is. During our first home game after Kevin was injured, I listened as our own fans used the most profane language towards this team. They wondered why the guys fell apart there towards the end. I have few ideas why. And that was game one. What happens now as the Bills come home after losing two more games and starting the season 0-3 with fans calling for people to wear paper bags over their heads as a sign of discontent? What happens when our rookie quarterback has to get out there for only his second NFL game because our starter was also injured in last week's game? Will people boo if he's not perfect?

My plea is for the all-important 12th man to show up this weekend. If this team needs anything right now, it's the support of the crowd and the fans in the stadium. No doubt the Jets will represent here - they always do. We need to cheer louder for this team than ever before. The 12th man will make the difference in this game. I BILLieve in this team - do you????

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Go shawty, it's ya birthday...

Will's 3rd birthday has been an eventful one. He's not had one of his best days - lots of toddler screaming and crying. Let's just say I'll be glad when bedtime gets here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The countdown is on!!!!

Will's birthday is tomorrow - he'll be three! I can't even believe it. We don't have big plans for tomorrow - Ryan has an away game and won't be home until later in the evening. But Will's big shindig will take place on October 1st at Chuck E. Cheese's.

So let the countdown begin to Will's big day!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Saying Goodbye...

Every time I part ways with someone, two songs always seem to pop into my head. Remember "It's Time For Saying Goodbye" from The Muppets Take Manhattan?" Yeah, that one always does it for me. Even worse, I'm embarassed to say I saw The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas way too young, but "Hard-Candied Christmas" is the other song that really gets me misty-eyed when it's time to say "goodbye."

Both of these songs went through my head last night as Ryan and I said our goodbyes to Kevin Everett and his family who as of this morning are on their way back to Houston where they live. It was bittersweet last night - we are so excited that Kevin is doing well enough to go home, but we will miss he and his family terribly. Seeing Ryan say goodbye to his teammate was heartbreaking. With the Everett family headed back home, we'll try to regain a sense of normalcy around here, but it will be hard without having Kevin here.

We're lucky - we're Texans too so we're practically neighbors with Kevin and his family. Well, not quite - it's a big state. But from now on if anyone asks us if we have family in Texas, the answer is going to be "you bet." We will head to Houston as soon as we can after the season to go visit.

Our prayers continue to be with Kevin and his family - that he continue his miraculous recovery and that his family continues to have the tremendous strength necessary to get him through the months of rehab he'll endure. If anyone can handle it, it's them. Being around this family for the past couple of weeks has taught me so many lessons about perserverance, love, hope and faith, and my life is better because they are a part of it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Everybody clap your hands...

This is by far the best commercial on t.v. right now. Anyone who has danced to this song at a wedding, birthday party, bar mitzvah, etc. will love it. Check it out....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

1 in 100,000...

I read a statistic yesterday - 1 in 100,000 athletes will suffer a catastrophic spinal cord injury like the one Kevin Everett suffered last weekend. 1 in 100,000! And if I remember the article correctly, since 1977, less than 300 football players (starting at the high school level) suffered spinal injuries that resulted in some sort of paralysis. I read the statistics and a breathed a sigh of relief - the chances of this happening to Ryan are 1 in 100,000. The chances of this happening to Ryan are slim. I needed this info for me to come to terms with my husband's occupation, because the thought has crossed my mind numerous times this week - "is it worth it?" Just this morning I read an article in which Ryan was quoted as saying that it could've easily been him out there instead of Kevin. The thought of that is frightening.

But then I start thinking about that statistic even further - 1 in 100,000. Okay then - why Kevin? Why did this incredible, young, talented athlete with his whole career in front of him become a statistic? Why him? I don't know the answer and I doubt I ever will. As a Christian, I am taught to believe that God has a purpose for everything that happens - my faith requires me to trust that notion. And I do. What's clear to me is that God has a greater purpose for Kevin's life - he's going to have such an incredible impact on this world, more than he ever would have on the football field. As Kevin continues to make his miraculous recovery, he will change lives with his testimony. The thought of that gives me some peace.

Various media outlets are reporting that Kevin is now moving some of his fingers - his hands were the only extremities he didn't have any feeling in a couple of days ago. That young man arrived at the hospital Sunday a quadriplegic - he couldn't move or feel anything below his neck. Now, less than a week after his injury, he can feel almost every part of his body. An article I read this morning said the doctors can't really account for why he's doing so well - they attribute his recovery to a combination of things including modern medicine, etc. For those of us who have been praying for Kevin this week, we know exactly why this is happening. It's no mystery to us - God has clearly worked miracles.

Ryan's contract with the Bills is over at the end of the season. We don't know if the Bills have any plans on re-signing him at this point, so we may be moving on. But I will tell you this - I don't care where I am next year, but the day Kevin Everett walks back on to the football field at Ralph Wilson Stadium next year, I will be there.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


That's the only word I can use to describe how I feel about the tremendous support I've seen for Kevin Everett and his family. I've been at the hospital everyday, and so many people have come by to pray, bring cards and flowers, etc. The guys on the team come by and just sit in the waiting room - they want to be near their teammate and show him support. Signs in front of schools and churches all over Buffalo read "Pray for Kevin Everett." Fans of other teams all across the country are pulling for Kevin Everett and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have received thousands upon thousands of well wishes on their website in support of Kevin. It's incredible to me how a tragedy such as this one can bring people together. It looks like the Bills are going to be America's Team this year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Moving forward...

I have a praise to report - Kevin is improving! As I'm sure you may have heard or read, doctors are reporting that Kevin is responsive and has had some voluntary movement in his extremities - all good signs for a great recovery. He's not out of the woods yet, so please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

This morning was rough for me. Will was at school. Our weekend houseguests were gone. Ryan was at work. It was quiet. And I cried. It was the first time I had a moment to just sit and take everything in uninterrupted, and it was devastating. The magnitude of this entire tragedy is just so overwhelmingly sad. I was thrilled to hear the great update on Kevin today - it's just what I needed to shake that hopeless feeling I was contending with this morning. It's amazing how a little faith and hope can completely change you.

Ryan and I sat and ate lunch together before heading to the hospital today. I asked my husband a question. How was he going to be able to get back out on that field and do his job all things considering? His answer was simple - "I don't know." I can't even begin to fathom the effect a tragedy like this will have on the guys. They are resilient though, and I know every single one of them will be on that field Sunday playing their hearts out in support of Kevin. And I'll be there. Pittsburgh - see you Sunday!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Unspeakable tragedy...

It is with great sadness that I write tonight. One of Ryan's teammates, Kevin Everett, was severely injured during the Bills' season opener against the Broncos. Kevin, a fellow tight end, was running down the field on a special teams play when he collided with the return guy. Kevin's body immediately went limp. He was motionless on the ground for minutes. After what seemed like an eternity, he was loaded onto an ambulance and rushed to a local hospital.

We've all seen this before - a player has a collision like this on the field and he gives the mandatory "thumbs-up" to let the crowd know he's okay as he's loaded into the ambulance. Kevin never gave the signal.

We now know that Kevin suffered a severe spinal cord fracture and dislocation. The injury is located in the 3rd and 4th vertebrae. He's currently in a medicine-induced coma to minimize any further trauma to his body. He's also on a respirator. From all reports by the attending medical staff today, the prognosis is bleak. Kevin's injury could still be lethal. Although Kevin showed some voluntary movement in his extremities, the doctors are certain there will be some paralysis. I'm sure you can imagine how devastating this must be to his family and friends. For us, it's hitting way too close to home.

I sat in the stands yesterday and listened to fans as they cussed and cursed at the Bills for having a less-than-stellar second half that eventually ended in defeat. All I could think about was Kevin. Here's a team that was expected to regroup after a major contributor on the team was carted away in an ambulance, and people booed. To say I was floored is an understatement. I think people forget that it's a game. These are young guys who put their lives on the line every single time they go on that field in the name of entertainment. It's fascinating when you look at it like that.

Life is so much more precious than a check mark in the "W" column. I've done a lot of crying and soul searching over the past couple of days. Kevin Everett - tight end and special teams standout for the Buffalo Bills. Kevin Everett - paralyzed? That could've been my husband out there. That could've been Ryan. The reality of that in and of itself is, well, paralyzing. I just had to hold onto him a little bit longer last night - I held him a little tighter. I thank God it wasn't us, but it doesn't take away the indescribable pain we're all feeling right now. Please keep Kevin, his family and friends in your prayers.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Casa de Neufeld is back!

I just wanted to share some pictures of the new and improved Casa de Neufeld. It was so incredible being home. The house looks amazing - it looks 10 times better than the original house. I guess there is a silver lining on everything we've been through. I am anxiously awaiting being able to head home after the season...

Rain, rain go away...

Crap - looks like it's supposed to rain all day today - a major bummer with our first home game against the Broncos that starts at 1 p.m...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Will's first week of school...

Will's "Zoolander" look...

Will seems to be fitting right in at Buffalo Hearing & Speech. His teachers are awesome and he seems to be adjusting well. His first day of school was eventful! The fire department was called after a toaster set off the fire alarms. Will took everything in stride though while his anxious mama stressed out!

Friday, September 7, 2007


Since I know you all are eagerly awaiting them, I will be posting updates on Will's first day of school and my trip to Texas to check on the house this weekend when I have a few spare moments.

I am happy to report that Delta Airlines did a stellar job at getting me to my destinations these past couple of days. And there were totally empty seats on the plane - I can't remember the last time I was on a flight and there were actually empty seats!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I can't believe it's come to this!

I am flying home to Texas tomorrow to close up shop on our house for the football season. With all the repairs done, our surviving furniture and clothes are being delivered and I'm interviewing two potential housesitters to keep an eye on things while we're gone. This is a quick trip - I fly out on Wednesday night and plan on returning Friday evening. Doesn't sound too bad, right?

Well, with my recent travel nightmares, going on such a short trip creates so much anxiety for me that my stomach aches. With all of the recent cancellations and delays I've experienced, the fear of getting stuck in Dallas and not being able to get back for the opening game Sunday here in Buffalo has me paranoid.

I'm flying Delta this week - I haven't flown the airline in a while because I had a really bad experience once out of Atlanta. I was traveling alone with Will when he was about 3 months old, it was pouring outside, I had all of my baby gear in tow, and we had to board a small prop plane outside in pouring rain that had been delayed several hours. Not one person (airline employee or passenger) offered any help. By the time Will and I got on the plane, we were both soaked and crying. It was terrible. I'm not sure what Delta's track record has been with delays and cancellations this summer, so we'll see.

But it has come to this - as I sat here this morning watching the Today Show report that rains from hurricane Felix are going to pound Texas this week, I hopped up, turned on the computer, and booked a refundable ticket out of Dallas-Love Field on old faithful - Southwest Airlines. The flight is for Saturday if I somehow get stranded by Delta on Friday. It's nice to have a dependable back up, but it just floors me that my traveling experiences have been so bad that I've felt the need to take these steps. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 3, 2007

When the cheering stops...

I wanted to share an article written by a good friend of ours Ross Tucker. Ross and Ryan came to Buffalo at the same time in 2003. Those guys bonded right away - both were undrafted out of college and faced an uphill battle making a career out of the NFL. That year, they both made the team. Ross has since moved on but after a recent injury, his NFL career is over. He's written a poignant account of what he's experiencing right now. It gives excellent perspective on the trials and tribulations players and their families often experience off the field.

The final cut
First-hand account of an NFL career coming to a close

The press release below, was one of scores issued by NFL teams in the past week, when all 32 clubs had two cutdown dates -- last Tuesday, cutting to 75, and Saturday, the final cut to 53.

Washington Redskins Reach Mandatory Roster Limit Ashburn, Va. -- The Washington Redskins announce today they have reached the mandatory roster limit of 75 players by releasing defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, placing offensive lineman Ross Tucker and wide receiver Jason McAddley on injured reserve, and waiving injured fullback Pete Schmitt.

Each team brings 80 players to camp, more in some cases with roster exemptions for NFL Europa players. By Saturday night at least 27 players per team had to be whacked from the July rosters ... players who came to camp with such high hopes, players who left their small towns and big cities six weeks ago, heads high, fired up about playing on the biggest football stage on Earth. That's 864 dreams, give or take a few, crushed. This is the story of one of them.

Before training camp, I had asked Tucker, a veteran offensive lineman, to keep some notes and to write something for Monday Morning Quarterback if the Redskins let him go. "It's one of the things we never get a good view of,'' I told him, "and you're smart enough to convey the true feelings of what a player goes through when he's cut.''

Tucker, a Princeton guy, is a 6-foot-4, 305-pound veteran of six NFL seasons. He started 24 games, mostly for Buffalo, in a career that also included appearances for Washington and Dallas, with camp stops in New England and Cleveland. Though technically it was only Tucker's 2007 season that ended when he was put on injured-reserve last Tuesday, you'll see that it was much more.


By Ross Tucker

I knew instantly what was happening when my cell phone vibrated and I pulled it out of my pocket.


The only number I know with a 703 area code is the offices of the Washington Redskins. So when I saw the "703," I got sick to my stomach. It took my breath away, literally. I got the call last Monday at 5:30 p.m., while waiting to pay for my sandwich at a Subway restaurant in Ashburn, Va. I didn't answer the call because I was about to pay, and besides, I already knew what the phone call meant. I can only imagine how pale my face looked as I paid for my sub and walked out.

After 18 years of football, the last seven of which were in the NFL, my dream was likely over. Even though I knew it was probably going to happen at some point this week, like most of the 900 or so players in my shoes in the last week also facing the death of their dreams, my heart still told me I had a chance to make the team.

I never thought the end would come like this -- with me holding the end of my life's passion in one hand and a foot long Italian sub on wheat in the other.

I could almost predict word for word what the message would say because I had heard it all before. "Ross,'' the voice said, "This is Louis Riddick with the Redskins. Please call me as soon as you get this message."

Riddick is the director of pro personnel for the Redskins and a former player. Most fans who dream of being a GM or working for an NFL team as a scout or coach never think about how hard that part of the job must be. You pick up the phone and shatter dreams with every call you make.

I called Louis back as I made my way toward Redskin Park for the inevitable and he said, "Ross, we have to make some cuts today. Can you come over to the park?"

"Yeah, sure," I said. "Should I bring my playbook?"


After picking up my playbook at the hotel where the "bubble" guys who don't have residences in the area stay, I felt like everything I had done since March 8 when I signed with the 'Skins was for nothing. I quickly shook that thought off and reminded myself what this was really about. It was about me giving it everything I had every day and playing to the best of my God-given ability. It was about being able to walk away from the game with no regrets and the feeling of peace and contentment that comes only when you know you did your best.

I couldn't help but think about the whirlwind training camp had been. The first week I was third-string center, got very few repetitions and was often left wondering if I was an afterthought. The second week I was moved to second-string right guard and had one of the best weeks of practice in my career. The third week I was back to center, this time at second-string when they moved Mike Pucillo into the starting lineup at left guard. Things changed in the fourth week, on Aug. 23. As I sat in my happy place, the team hot tub, getting loosened up for the day, I was struck with some news that hit me like a bolt of lightning. Taylor Whitley, another veteran lineman battling for a roster spot, was the bearer of this news.

"Did you hear?" said Whitley.

"No, what?" I said.

"We traded for Pete Kendall from the Jets."

"Oh, man, that's not good."

I knew immediately I might be in trouble. Kendall would be the starting left guard, Pucillo would be the back-up interior guy, and I would be competing with a whole bunch of guys for probably the ninth and final offensive line roster spot.

They tell you to never look at the number of guys at your position or to not worry about who they sign and to just focus on playing your best. Yeah, right. Every time I hear a player say, "I don't worry about any of that, I just do the best that I can,'' I chuckle. Although all of us block those thoughts out when we are on the field and simply compete as hard as we can, I find it very hard to believe that those guys never think in bed at night what may happen or what the coaches might do.

I was very much looking forward to our third preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens because I anticipated getting a lot of playing time and wanted to give the coaches an indication of what I could do. I made sure my immediate family was at the game because I knew they wouldn't make it down to Jacksonville for the final preseason game.

One of my wife Kara's best friends from college was getting married that same day and Kara was torn as to what she should do. "Kara," I said, "You really need to come to this game. It very well could be the last time you ever see me play."

It was a strange night, to say the least, and most certainly not how I envisioned my last football game. First, the game was delayed for over an hour due to lightning and thunder. Then, I surprisingly got a "stinger" during pre-game warm-ups when I hit 330-pound Samoan defensive lineman Joe Salave'a head to head. A "stinger" occurs when you pinch a nerve in your neck upon contact and it is a numbing, painful, tingling sensation that shoots down your neck toward your shoulder and sometimes even goes all the way down your arm into your fingers. Kind of like hitting your funny bone, only it's in your neck -- and it is no laughing matter. It usually lasts a couple of seconds. It is a somewhat common football injury and not usually a cause for concern.

It was in the back of my mind, however, as I lined up for my first action of the night as the "wedge-setter'' on the kickoff-return team. The collisions between the wedge and the wedge breakers are some of the most vicious in football, and it takes a special person to want to perform these duties. And I don't mean "special" in a good way, either. You have to either crave physical contact, be a little crazy, or maybe a combination of both. I looked at No. 54 for the Ravens, a rookie linebacker from Michigan named Prescott Burgess, and knew he was my likely target. As always, there was a little fear, but that fear is a good thing. I have always tried to harness that fear and use it to my advantage. Someone is going to get the better of the collision, and you are either the hitter or the hittee.

I pulled my shoulder pads forward so that my neck roll was tight against the back of my helmet, still somewhat mindful of the stinger from pre-game. I put my mouthpiece in and decided it was time. It was either going to be him or me.

The ball was kicked and I hurried to set the four-man wedge, the group of players who stay close together and run toward the opposition like a moving wall. Burgess was running down the field at me. Not many people in the world know what it is like to see a 240-pound man who probably runs a 4.6 40-yard dash bearing down at you on a 50-yard dead sprint. I got as low as possible right before impact as Burgess attempted to split the gap between myself and a fellow wedge member.

Upon impact, it was one of the best bad feelings I have ever had. The painful stinging sensation from the pinched nerve was offset by the fact that we crushed our guy and did our job to perfection. The three or four seconds of pain were worth the small victory that had just occurred. Burgess lay on the field. He hurt worse than I did. I found out the next day that he had a shoulder injury and a concussion. I take no pride in the fact that he was hurt on the play, though one thought did cross my mind. Better him than me.

The night got weirder, however, as the lightning came back and the game was canceled early in the second half before I got any playing time at center. I'll have to show them what I can do at Jacksonville on Thursday, I said to myself. That opportunity never came.

After arriving at Redskin Park to collect my belongings and fill out my paperwork, I made a point to personally thank all of the coaches and staff for the opportunity they had given me. There were no explanations given to me by anyone in the organization as to why I was being released and none needed.

Offensive line coach Joe Bugel had a smile as we shook hands, following my lead. I was proud of my effort and I wasn't going to walk around there with my tail between my legs.

"Thanks for the opportunity, coach," I said.

"You bet, Tuck. You did a good job. You gave it everything you had," said Bugel.

I knew this was a bottom-line business and the bottom line was they didn't need me. Interestingly enough, the only time I got even a little bit emotional was when I spoke to the owner of the Redskins, Daniel Snyder, for the first time in my life.

I asked Mr. Snyder's assistant if I could thank the Redskins owner for the opportunities he had given me. In his office, I choked up a bit as I said, "Thank you so much for giving an undrafted free agent rookie from Princeton an opportunity in 2001. You really changed my life." It's true -- the Redskins gave me my first and my last chance at my dream. In an attempt to lighten the mood I told Mr. Snyder I still had one claim to fame. "I am pretty sure that I am the only 28-year-old Princeton grad that has been fired five times already." He laughed.

Before signing my medical paperwork, I asked the team for an MRI to make sure my neck was OK after having those two stingers in the game. It turns out I have a herniated disc that may require surgery at some point. Two doctors told me I shouldn't play again this year because of some signs of spinal cord irritation. They don't think it is a good idea if I ever play again. The Redskins put me on injured reserve, but the end result is the same: I will never play football again.

My wife was calm and business-like the night before when I told her that I was getting released. She was quite the opposite when I told her of the diagnosis. I told her what the first doctor had said as positively as I could, but I could tell she thought the worst.

There was no response on the other end of the line. "Oh no," I thought, "She is pretty upset." She cried and cried as I told her that I was fine and that it wouldn't get any worse because I would never play football again. I promised her it would be OK, even though I wasn't exactly sure myself.

"Your neck is going to hurt for the rest of your life," she said, "just like your back." I had a back surgery in 2005 that feels fine right now but gives me some discomfort from time to time. Her point was well-taken and it sunk in that my pain may hurt her as much as it hurts me down the road. I really don't know how I will feel when I am 48 or 58. No active player does.

Most of the guys who got cut in the last few days will go back to their hometown and things will feel a little bit different. Guys who are used to being cheered and revered every time they go back home will now be met by people with a puppy-dog expression in their eyes that says they know something bad has happened. Some might ask things like, "What happened? Why did they cut you? Have you talked to any other teams? What does your agent say?" It would almost be easier to wear a T-shirt that said "Got Cut, Not Sure, Thanks for Your Support."

Unless you have been there, nobody knows what it is like to drive home and look your wife in the eyes and tell her that you weren't able to get the job done. It just occurred to me as I write this how fortunate I am to have a supportive wife who is happily married to an unemployed, overweight, and slightly balding 28-year-old man. I will definitely be able to get a job and lose some weight now that I am done playing, but there is not much I can do about the balding part.

Although all but a few of the cut players attended college, I'm sure more than half have no idea what they're going to do now. Most of these young men are facing failure and rejection for the first time. Getting cut from a team or being anything less than the star has never even been a consideration for them until this point. At times when I have struggled with the pain and frustration of getting released it has made me think about how hard it must be for the seventh-grader who gets cut from the junior-high basketball team when most of his friends make it. If it is hard for me at 28, what must it be like for a 13 year old?

I consider myself very fortunate in the sense that I have been preparing for this moment from the time my career started. When I first made the Redskins as an undrafted rookie in 2001, I realized that might be my only year, so I invested the money, continued driving my 1990 Jeep Cherokee, and began thinking about what I would want to do when football was over. I was keenly aware that football was just a temp job. I have a couple of business interests, such as, that will occupy my time, and I am more than excited about the possibility of writing or talking about football for a living. I figure if I can't play anymore, that would be the next best thing.

But it is not the same as playing. Nothing else in life can replicate the feeling of running into another man in front of 90,000 people and hitting him as hard as you possibly can. My mom will probably hate reading this, but more than the paycheck or the camaraderie of the locker room, I will really miss the violence. It is just an amazing and pure primal feeling that you really don't understand if you have never had the chance to do it.

It is hard to know when it will hit me the hardest that my time has come. It could be on Sundays when it is hard for me to watch the TV and see the guys I know playing. It is more likely that it will sink in when I sit in the stands of a random high school football game on a Friday night and my eyes fill up as they play the National Anthem.

My wife and I drove 20 minutes from our home to Pottsville, Pa., Friday night to see the Crimson Tide of Pottsville take on my alma mater, the Wyomissing Spartans. It was a back-and-forth game between two storied programs, though I felt like I spent as much time explaining what injured-reserve meant as I did watching the game.

"What does it look like for next year?" a few people asked.

"There is no next year," I responded. "I'm done."

There was no time for sorrow, only happiness. Because the Spartans earned a thrilling 24-20 victory.

Life goes on. And yes: I still love football.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The good, the bad and the ugly...

This time of year is very stressful for NFL families across the country. Why? It's cut time. Every NFL team had to make cuts yesterday to get down to the maximum of 53 players on the roster. Cut day is the worst - players keep their cellphones handy in case they get "the call." Everytime the phone rings because a friend or family member is calling to get an update, the anxiety level heightens. If that call does in fact happen, the waiting game begins to see if you'll be lucky enough to end up with another team that season. It doesn't happen that often, so the rest of the football season is spent looking at options, waiting and hoping for another chance to play in the NFL. This time of year brings up so many bad memories because Ryan has been on the other end of that call several times. We know how it feels, and it sucks.

I am happy to report though that Ryan made it through cuts as expected and will be the starting fullback for the Buffalo Bills this year. We are so incredibly excited and feel so blessed that Ryan has this opportunity. Ryan is a guy who was undrafted coming into the NFL, played on four different teams before ending up in Buffalo, and is now entering his fifth season with the same team. To say that he has defied the odds is an understatement. We constantly thank God for the opportunities he continues to bestow on us. There is no doubt in my mind that without our faith, Ryan would have been an NFL casualty a long time ago.

Our excitement and joy is somewhat muted by the fact that some of our good friends weren't as lucky. The husbands of two of my best compadres here in Buffalo were cut. And so the cycle begins - they pack up their homes, put them on the market and hope they sell. They wait, and wait, and wait. I think my heart hurts even more for them because I know EXACTLY what they must be feeling right now. If I could give them any advice, it would be that no matter what happens, life goes on. The NFL world is a small one, and no doubt we'll cross paths again.

Adios Rosalie!

For those of you who were anxious to see me strip down to my skivvies in my professional theater debut, you're going to have to wait. Due to scheduling conflicts beyond my control, I have to back out of the role of Rosalie in Real Women Have Curves. I'm pretty bummed about this development - I was super excited about playing this role.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weathering the storm...

It's Mother's Day - May 14th, 2006. Ryan had a couple days off of practice, so he flew home to Dallas to check on our new home (we'd only owned it a little over a year) and have some furniture delivered. Ryan was so excited to be heading home - he was going to watch a movie for the first time in our state-of-the-art media room. Excitement turned to horror when Ryan walked in the front door. There was water everywhere. Ceilings had collapsed. Insulation from the attic covered the floor. Mold covered walls, furniture, and clothing. The toxic fumes in the house had set off the carbon monoxide detectors. Our home was ruined. Remember how the homes looked after hurricane Katrina??? That's what the inside of our house looked like. It was just devastating.

Ryan could hear water running, so he careful went up the stairs and found the culprit - a toilet right off of Will's room was overflowing. Ryan quickly shut off the water and stood there in horror. Ryan discovered that the valve in the toilet broke - it literally snapped. Normal folks would discover a problem like this right away, thus minimizing any potential damage. Because we were in Buffalo, we had no idea what was happening. We later determined the the toilet was overflowing for 7-14 days - we're not sure exactly how long. Approximately 1300 gallons of water came out of that toilet - enough to fill a swimming pool. When all was said and done, we ended up gutting approximately 75% of this massive 4300 sq. ft. house.

For several months, we tried to deal with the builder, DARLING HOMES, about a possible buy back of the home since it was so new. Our hope was to turn over the insurance check to Darling, let them fix it and eventually sell it. We just wanted out. At one point, Darling had agreed to do so, and then they backed out. With all the legal wrangling, we didn't start the actually home repairs until 8 months after the flood.

Here we are almost a year-and-a-half later and I'm happy to report that our house is almost done. We received pictures from the contractor of the progress and I was just floored. The house is better than I ever could have dreamed. It's absolutely beautiful. I can't believe I finally have my home again.

We learned so many lessons over this past year. We will now have someone going into our house every day to check on it while we are in Buffalo. We know to shut off all the water to the house while we're gone. We got rid of all the toilets in the house - the valve in the toilet was made by a company named FLUIDMASTER. We found out that FLUIDMASTER uses a highly corrosive plastic - if there are elevated levels of chlorine in the tank (say, from one of those chlorine tabs - don't use them), the plastic will begin to erode. FLUIDMASTER has so many claims against it that our insurance company has it's own department that deals just with these claims.

Speaking of insurance companies, we're insured through Travelers. I cannot tell you how awesome our experience has been. Our policy covered all the damage. We've not had any problems whatsoever since the flood. If you're looking for a good homeowner's policy, I highly recommend Travelers.

Lesson learned, albeit an expensive one...