Thursday, February 28, 2008

And so it begins...

Tonight at midnight, NFL free agency begins. At that moment, Ryan is officially unemployed and no longer a Buffalo Bill. Wow. It hit me yesterday as I was filling out some insurance forms. When filling out Ryan's employment information, I had to stop. I crossed out the address I'm so used to using - One Bills Drive - and wrote "unemployed." That one word sent a shudder down my spine - it signifies all sorts of uncertainty and many unknowns. What we are sure of is that we won't be back in Buffalo. We are now at the will of 31 NFL teams hoping that someone, anyone, will be interested in a healthy, 32-year-old tight end/fullback/long snapper/special teams ace. You see, 32 is considered "old" in the NFL. There are teams out there that won't even look at free agents who've passed the ripe old age of 30. So even though Ryan is healthy and ready to go, it's hard to say whether or not anyone will be interested in him and willing to give him a shot.

It could be months before we hear from anyone - teams will spend the next couple of weeks going after the highly sought after free agents - the ones that make the big bucks. Those guys will get phone calls tonight when the clock strikes 12. NFL teams will fly them out for visits and court them. We're pretty certain we won't be getting one of those phone calls.

The key for us now is patience, perseverance, a little hope and some faith that everything is going to work out according to God's plan. We're hoping Ryan gets picked up - he's definitely not ready to retire. So we'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope to hear something sooner rather than later. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

27 weeks

Fresh from the gym this morning, I had Ryan snap a couple of pics of the growing baby bump.




27 weeks. Third trimester. Three more months to go. Wow - this baby will be here before we know it. It's definitely making its presence known - it moves all the time, especially in the middle of the night when I'm trying to get some sleep. Bean is pretty strong too - I've already gotten a couple of kicks in the ribs that made me gasp!

Ryan and I decided to do one of those 3D ultrasounds - we're not sure when we're going to do it, but we're thinking about getting them done in California in a couple of weeks while we're visiting family. So we'll see.

Home sweet home...

Being in the Dallas-area last week afforded us the opportunity to spend the night in our own home over the weekend. Ryan and I figured it out - it's the first time we both slept in the house in almost two years. How crazy is that??? The house is still very much a work in progress, but with a lot of furniture having been set up, it's easy to see the possibilities. It's awesome to know we'll be home in about four months - it was really hard to leave this time around.




Tuesday, February 26, 2008

PAO



Ryan and I were in Dallas last week for the annual Pro Athletes Outreach conference. We've gone for the past five years and it's awesome! Pro Atheles Outreach is a pros-to-pros ministry. The conference provides Biblically-based advice on everything from parenting and relationships to money management. It's a great conference because pro football players and their wives come from all over the country - it's like a big reunion every year. We (the Buffalo Bills - we're still claiming them until free agency starts on Friday) had a big group this year - there were 23 of us! Good times!

Big day in the Neufeld house!!!

In the midst of all the major, life-altering situations we're dealing with around here like free agency and a pregnancy, something major happened to us today - Will finally went pee-pee on the potty for the first time! WOO HOO! This is a huge deal for us! Of course, it's just the start of many potty battles to come, but you have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Christmas in February...

Sorry mom, but I warned you I was going to write about you on my blog...

My mom isn't very good about getting Christmas done on time. Every year, she's the person who waits until Christmas eve to even start her Christmas shopping. I think she's crazy, but it's just her thing.

Well, we had Christmas today at the Neufeld house!!! We got a thick envelope in the mail with a couple of Nordies gift cards in it from mom. Thanks mom. Hey, better late than never!!! Love you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ah, Buffalo...

It's -16 outside with the windchill this morning. It's so cold school has been cancelled. Nice...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Moving on...

There is an awesome article in today's Buffalo News about the Neufelds. The author, Bob DiCesare, did such an awesome job at capturing the human side of the NFL story. It's a great read.

RYAN NEUFELD: “I just wish I would be here to experience when this team does get in the playoffs.”

Moving on
A happy chapter is closing for Bills tight end Ryan Neufeld and his family
By Bob DiCesare NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
Updated: 02/10/08 6:43 AM

The young Los Angeles attorney rides a plane bound for Buffalo, the ties between her and the legal profession loosening by the time zone. Her husband is hours away from suiting up in the Buffalo Bills’ 2003 season opener, and she has too much anxiety invested in his career – never mind his career, in their marriage – to be anywhere but at The Ralph when it happens.

Dawn Neufeld enters the stadium and feels isolated among a crowd of more than 70,000. She knows not another player’s wife, a girlfriend, a soul. The national anthem resonates on a humid 70-degree September day in Orchard Park.

A flyover punctuates the impending return of football and tears speckle her cheeks because after two years out of the game, tight end Ryan Neufeld is back on the inside. The immensity of the moment they share is affirmed by the can-this-be? wetness welling in his eyes. He sprints out of the tunnel, an NFL player once again.

You all right?, teammates ask. And Ryan gives them the affirmative head shake. It’s opening day. Isn’t everybody emotional on opening day?

Five years later, the end of this leg of their joyous journey looms. The Bills designated Neufeld inactive in their final four games. His contract has expired. He and Dawn do the rudimentary math and deduce their time in Western New York nears its conclusion. They wish it were otherwise because their affinity for the area and the franchise abounds.

Their son, 3-year-old Will, was born at Mercy Hospital.

Their second child, gender unknown by choice, will be delivered here in June. Will attends Buffalo Hearing and Speech to minimize his communication deficiencies. He’s the reason they’ll remain in their town house close by the McKinley Mall through the offseason and into summer instead of returning to their home in Frisco, Texas, just around the corner from two close friends met in Buffalo, former Bills running back Sammy Morris and his wife, Leslie. When they’ll get back there depends on where Ryan’s career goes from here. He’s 32 and again at the crossroads.

Buffalo Bills arrive and depart on a regular basis and it’s all chalked up to the business side of football. Very few players spend a career in one place, acclimate to just one city. Contracts run out. Cuts are made. Some free agents move on in pursuit of more lucrative deals, but scant is the number of players who leave of their own volition, on their own terms.

Salvation in WNY

Neufeld is testament to the transient nature of the sport. Undrafted out of UCLA, he played six games for Dallas in 1999, three for Jacksonville in 2000 and spent the next two years working out to remain football ready while attending tryouts that came up empty. Dawn encouraged him to keep at it but for Ryan the fruitless exercises deflated his psyche.

Their payback — and perhaps their marital salvation — arrives when Ryan signs with the Bills. The Neufelds immerse themselves in the franchise and the community, donate countless hours to charitable endeavors. Dawn, an indefatigable spirit, steps to the forefront of many causes undertaken by the Buffalo Bills Women’s Association. Ryan is often right there with her.

“The situation presented an opportunity to volunteer,” Dawn says. “I’m like, ‘Sign me up. Where do I go?’ ”

Their support spills to Garth Brooks’ Teammates for Kids, Gilda’s Club, Women and Children’s Hospital, the Susan G. Komen Foundation for a Cure, Ronald McDonald House, and more. Dawn helps obtain and wrap gifts for the team’s Toyota Rookie Club Christmas party. The night of the event, both she and Ryan mingle with the children although they’re under no obligation to attend.

“Dawn, she’s been a driving force really since she’s been here,” says Gretchen Geitter, the Bills’ executive director of community relations. “Intelligent. Compassionate. Passionate. And the same with Ryan. They do it from the heart and that’s why it’s so wonderful to work with them. They contribute so much and so much of what they do people don’t necessarily see. They do a lot on their own as well. Good people.”

Speculation persists that the Bills, looking for ways to boost a sluggish, undefined offense, could select a tight end in the April draft or pluck one from the free-agent pool. If so, the likelihood of Neufeld returning to the roster further diminishes. His agent, Todd France, tells Ryan other teams will have interest. He and Dawn hope

so.

“At 32, most people are just in the

prime of a career and just going,” Dawn says. “For him it’s kind of like the wind down, which is so bizarre. He’s 100 percent healthy and feeling great and it would be a shame if the one thing that stopped him would be his age.”

If this is the end of their time in Buffalo, many area causes will feel the loss. Dawn was instrumental in helping Gilda’s Club Western New York obtain a $10,000 grant through Teammates For Kids. The money, secured in December, will be used to support and enhance Noogieland, the organization’s children’s program.

“Dawn’s intelligent and educated and obviously has a lot of choices how to spend her time,” said Mary Beth Karr, executive director of Gilda’s Club WNY. “That she picked to give her time to community involvement is impressive to us. It takes an effort to become integrated like that. We were really honored that she and Ryan would be involved with us.”

A self-made survivor

Neufeld made his mark in Buffalo predominantly on special teams, although all 13 of his NFL receptions and his one touchdown came in a Bills uniform. And while his participation ebbed this season, his work habits remained uncompromised. Neufeld’s preparedness once rendered former Bills head coach Mike Mularkey sheepishly silent. During a plane trip to Oakland in 2005, Mularkey sought out Neufeld to tell him he wasn’t going to dress for the game. Mularkey passed player after player before coming to Neufeld, the only one aboard studying his playbook. The coach decided he’d wait to break the news.

“Ryan is probably one of the most humble, hardworking, ethical people I know and when he has a job to do he does it,” Dawn says. “To be living out his dream, albeit not in the capacity that he had hoped, he was just very grateful to have the opportunity. I think I probably get more frustrated and worked up in those situations than he does. I get selfish sometimes during the football season because he leaves at 6:30 in the morning. He’d get into work before the coaches even got there. He’d stay in a little later to study. Even during training camp, I mean his work ethic is unparalleled by a lot of the players. Not that I’m biased.”

She smiles. “Training camp, I’d go down and visit, and after not seeing him for several days all the other guys are coming off the field seeing their families and I’m looking for Ryan and he’s over catching extra passes from a Jugs machine. And I’m like, ‘I’m over here!’ ”

This season was a letdown, for him and for her. Dawn’s frustrations are evident in a blog she maintains. Ryan is more philosophical. It’s football. There are no promises, no guarantees.

“It didn’t happen the way I would have liked for it to have happened for myself,” Ryan says of the season. “I understand now what the business is and things that go into it. I tried to support the team in every way I could. I didn’t want to be a complainer and have 100 meetings with coaches. I just try to do what I can to support the guys out there.

“I just kept up my work ethic, went in every day and worked hard and made the best of the situation.

“I just wish I would be here to experience when this team does get in the playoffs,” he says. “It was after the Dallas game this year, devastating loss. I was eating breakfast at Perkins and this lady comes up to me and she’s like, ‘I just love watching you guys play. You guys did a great job last night. Just keep working.’ And I was like, ‘Man, we need to get to the playoffs.’ These fans around here, I know the atmosphere would just be electric.”

Home away from home

Short stays in Dallas and Jacksonville and two years out of football brought the Neufelds to Western New York packing guarded optimism. Had they known they’d be here five years — five whole seasons — Dawn would have sat for the New York State bar exam.

Instead, she now wonders how she’ll explain to a prospective employer the sudden stop in her job chronology aside from the online course in sports law she’s taught for Canisius College.

At first, they admit, living in Western New York required a lifestyle adjustment. But it wasn’t long before they became one with the community and began to cherish its attributes.

“It was definitely a culture shock for us coming from the West Coast,” she says. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles and Ryan was born and raised in the San Jose area. L.A. traffic and Buffalo traffic, it’s like night and day. When people say there’s traffic here I kind of chuckle. It’s not traffic. I think of it from the perspective of being in an environment where you can just kind of slow down and enjoy what’s around you. I mean, we still get kind of excited when there’s a deer outside, we totally do, because it’s not like you see a deer running down the 405 in L.A. We still get excited about that. When it snows, when you’re not from [here] and you know you’re not going to be here forever, it’s kind of nice. You kind of like it.”

The camaraderie among the players, among the wives, they’re going to miss. Buffalo’s unique that way, Dawn says.

All the players seem to reside in proximity to the stadium, making it like one big huddle. The wives have their own get-togethers when the team’s out of town.

“People who we’ve known who’ve left, they just can’t believe how different it is on other teams,” she says. “This particular team is great, they’re awesome, I can’t say enough good things about them. I wish them all the luck in the future and definitely hope they have a great season next year. Again, it’s just bittersweet. It’s family. It’s hard leaving a lot of these guys.”

She emits a deep and sentimental sigh. Five years ago they arrived in WNY with almost empty bank accounts, just hoping to hold things together. Faith has helped to solidify their marriage. Their second child’s on the way. Everywhere they look they see family.

“I look down the road to like end of June and we’re heading out of Western New York and on that last flight out of here with my 3-, almost 4-year-old and a new baby and my husband and looking out the window, and sometimes depending on the flight path you fly over the Falls and fly over The Ralph. I’m going to be crying. I’m a crier, all right? I imagine it’s going to be pretty emotional for me.

“But we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really hard to leave. Lots of good memories here. Can’t say enough good things about these last five years for us in the Western New York area.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Gotcha!


When I look at this picture of Bean from this morning's ultrasound, it just makes me crack up. There he or she is with its mouth wide open, seemingly smiling. Well, we're sharing in Bean's joy - looks like the placenta previa has completely cleared! All of my restrictions have been lifted and we're back to having a normal pregnancy!

Bean looks great - all vital organs are working and measuring perfectly. Bean appears to be about 1 lb. 4 oz. and its heart was pounding away at 154 beats per minute.

I'm just thrilled. I feel like I can finally start enjoying this pregnancy again! This is a definitely God sighting - He answered my prayers. To go from having to complete previa to all things being clear is just amazing to me.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Back from Super Bowl weekend...


...and I'm exhausted! We had such an awesome time and the fashion show was a hit!

On Thursday morning, I woke up (way too early - still on east coast time) and ventured out into Scottsdale. I ate at a wonderful breakfast spot before heading to the mall with my good friend Leslie for our fashion show fittings. Our fittings were at Scottsdale Fashion Square - what a neat mall. We walked around for a bit before we stumbled upon a bunch of our friends at the Louis Vuitton store. Holly Robinson Peete was hosting a reception, so we made our way in to say hello to all the girls.




After the reception, I made my way to Dillard's for my fitting. This was a tough one for me. I'm so used to being able to to wear just about anything but at five-and-a-half months pregnant, that wasn't going to happen. It took me over two hours to find two outfits to wear for the fashion show. Finally satisfied with my selections, we stopped for a bite to eat then went back to the hotel to get changed for the evening's festivities.

Tiffany & Co. hosted a fabulous reception for us at it's Fashion Square location. It was so fun to get dolled up and spend a bunch of time staring and fantasizing about all of those diamonds. The highlight was when I got to meet Steve Young - I grew up a huge 49ers fan and was pumped that he was at our reception. The evening was really wonderful and we had a blast. Some of the ladies went to P. Diddy's party that night. I went to Sonic for a chili cheese dog and called it a night.

Ryan had some bad luck getting out of Buffalo that evening so I went to the reception solo. His flight was delayed five hours because of weather. Not fun.

I was up the next morning bright and early for our Off the Field fashion show. The event was absolutely wonderful. After months of hard work, we sold out the show - 500 seats! We also raised a good amount of money for Phoenix Children's Hospital. There are some things we can improve on for next year's show - mainly keeping it on schedule. But everyone enjoyed it.


Even more exciting is that I ended up doing a television interview about the show for KTLA - some of my family back in Los Angeles got to see me talking about the show. What are the chances of me doing a live feed interview for all my peeps to see back home?

Friday evening, we walked the very cold red carpet at the NFLPA party. It was unseasonably cold in Phoenix last week. Thank goodness the party wasn't being held outside like so many other Super Bowl parties. Keyshia Cole and Musiq Soulchild performed and we had a great time running into old friends like Takeo Spikes and Lawyer Milloy.



Saturday was pretty mellow. Leslie and I did some shopping during the day while Ryan went to check out the FBR golf tournament with his friend Akil. The big party that night was the Playboy party - it was IMPOSSIBLE to get on the list, and trust me, we tried. Alternatively, we went to the Hollyrod party hosted by Holly Peete. It was the perfect event for our last night in Phoenix - we got to hang out with friends and just chill.



We were up the next morning on our way back to Buffalo. Kudos to Southwest for a wonderful flight that got us in half an hour early! We were both very anxious to get back to our Will. We even had a few friends over to watch the big game.

Ryan and I are both struggling - after a good night's sleep, we've both been sluggish all day. Remember back in the day when you could pull a couple of all-nighters and be just fine? Not anymore. But we'll do this all over again next year in Tampa, FL for the next Super Bowl.