Life in the NFL
Life on the road makes you appreciate life at home
LIFE on the road in the NFL is much like it was back when I was playing for the Warriors.
For the most part, we fly out from Nashville a day or so before the game to allow us one full day to get adjusted and recover from any jet lag that we might experience. Trips to the West Coast are usually a lot more difficult, with the time change and long flight, but it really isn't too bad.
This year, the Titans organization has chartered the big airplanes. I don't know what model it is, but the plane is huge, and we have plenty of room to ourselves. For the most part, we are assigned two seats per person, so we have enough room to spread out. As you can imagine, we've got some pretty big guys on our team, as does every NFL team, so you've got to make sure that everyone is comfortable and not crammed into those small airplane seats.
We usually go through our major meetings prior to leaving for whatever city we are headed to. By doing so, it allows us more opportunity to get adjusted, get off our feet and get focused. Once we arrive, though, we do go through some minor touch-ups, whether it be our defensive schemes, reads, or personnel, or going through the major points of emphasis for the upcoming game.
For the most part, we have a ton of down time on the road. Every player uses this time differently. Some like to spend time with family who are in town for the game. Some players take the time to get extra treatment if needed. Some players like to watch a movie or play video games. But for the most part, we all just try to get off our feet and rest before the game.
The downsides of a road game are the fans and the locker rooms.
On the road you miss your home fans. Even though we are considered a smaller-market team, we have some of the best fans in the NFL. No matter what our record is, we sell out every single home game and always have the complete support of the community.
Our fans are very dedicated, motivating and supportive. They may not always like what is going on in the game, but they are always there each and every Sunday to cheer us on louder and harder than many other fan bases out there. Even though you are playing in another stadium, you still play for the home fans. The problem on the road is the away fans.
No matter where you play or who you play against, the away team fans are always all over the visiting team. I know our fans jump all over the opposing team when they come to town, saying all kinds of things that I certainly can't write about, but it gets pretty ridiculous. To me, it's entertaining, especially those fans who seem to go to the games just to heckle opposing teams and players.
Here are these guys, usually a little bit intoxicated, who sit in the stands talking all kinds of mess, knowing damn well that they wouldn't dare repeat what they say in a one-on-one situation.
The best ones are those who act like they are God's gift to coaching, criticizing our play-calling, strategy or individual play, but you look at them and they clearly have never set foot on a football field. I've got to say, though, that NFL fans are rabid fans. I would imagine it difficult to find fans in other sports who are more passionate than ours are.
Then you have the visiting-team locker rooms. Most opposing locker rooms are tiny. Some you can't even imagine trying to fit a pee-wee football team in there.
We have to cram our entire coaching, personnel, support staff and football team into these tiny locker rooms. And every team travels a ton of people to each game.
Some visiting locker rooms are nicer than others, but for the most part, it is ridiculously small. Miami's visiting locker room, which housed us on Sunday, was on the smaller side.
The worst part of the Miami game was playing in the dirt of the baseball field. Miami shares the stadium with the Florida Marlins, so the field still had the baseball dirt on it. It was funny. Parts of the field were grass, parts were dirt, and parts were FieldTurf.
Playing in the dirt is tough. It is hard to get your footing and get off the ball because there is no traction in the loose dirt. You have to change your footwork and take shorter, choppier steps in order to avoid slipping.
And falling on the dirt is like falling off your bike onto the concrete at high speeds. Not many guys like playing on the converted fields, but it's all a part of the game. I guess that's why they coined the term "home-field advantage."
The Miami game was a tough loss to swallow. It was another game that we could have won. It just came down to mistakes that we could not overcome, but we know that we should have won that game. Our record should read 2-1 after last week, not 0-3. We are a good team, and we played very well as a whole. We just made some mistakes and couldn't pull out the win.
Fortunately, I was able to break out of my slump, though. I registered my first sack in the first series of the game, and finished with a handful of tackles. My first sack kicks off the sack incentive program I spoke about in the last column. I encourage you all to check out my Web site (www.travislaboy.com) and participate, as we always welcome more supporters.
This week we face "America's team," the Dallas Cowboys.
I remember growing up watching great Cowboy teams of the '90s. This Cowboy team is a very well-coached team. Overall, they are a really talented team and have a ton of firepower on offense. As it is every week, the Dallas game will be a big challenge for us, but we look forward to it. It should be a good game to watch.
Former UH lineman Travis LaBoy is chronicling his season with the Tennessee Titans for the Star-Bulletin