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

Breathtaking...

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

Updates....

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.

"703"

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?"

"Yep."

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 www.gobigrecruiting.com, 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.