Eagles starting right tackle Winston Justice writes a weekly column for the Daily News to provide his insights into the team. His columns appear Wednesdays.
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Winston will answer the best of those submitted in future columns.
THE LOSS OF Jamaal Jackson has been tough on the offensive line. When one of our own goes down, we really feel for him. Making it this far through the season with our core group of five, we form a bond with one another, and seeing tears in another man's eyes because he cannot finish the game or the season with us, really hurts.
But it is up to us now to win games. Since Jamaal was the leader of the offensive line, we must all emerge as leaders and fill his role. The line is confident in Nick Cole setting up at center. Cole is a great athlete and has shown his physical ability at guard and in practice at center. With the important Cowboys game and playoffs coming up, the offensive line needs to spend more time in the film room and getting practice reps on the field. The most important part of changing centers is getting the timing right. But we are all part of the unit and we have all lined up together, so that chemistry never changes.
The team has been working hard just to get to this point. Mondays and Tuesdays are usually the team's off days; however, the offensive line comes in every Monday and goes over Sunday's game film with coach Juan Castillo, and that takes a couple hours. We also lift with the team trainer on these days. In addition, Todd Herremans, Jackson and I have been lifting three times a week with our own trainers, Steven Saunders and Nick Sacony from Power Train in Cherry Hill. With appearances and sometimes media interviews, the week goes by very quickly. What little free time I have, I spend with my family. Eating dinner out and just hanging out at home are two of our usual pastimes.
My wife and I are pretty thrifty; since we are not at home that often, we don't like to spend the extra money on cable television. So instead of watching television, I spend time reading the Bible and other books. My favorite book so far is called "Crazy Love," by Francis Chan, and currently I am reading a book by Mother Teresa titled "In My Own Words." Both are fascinating.
Q & A
As you head into the playoffs, what about the team's routine changes, if anything at all? Are practices shorter to keep guys healthy, or does everything stay at the same level of intensity? Are there any extra meetings or film sessions that the team takes in during the week?
Brian, so far, the schedule has not changed. We meet a little less, just because of the holidays. But usually this time of year is not much different from the beginning of the season. This week, the offensive line hopes to get in extra meetings and practice because of Nick Cole filling in for Jamaal Jackson. But as usual, this time of year always brings a flux of players on and off the roster because of injuries, so we really cannot afford to take too much time off.
The young guys and the guys coming up from the practice team need the extra reps. The Eagles are actually a pretty young team, compared with other years, and all of us could use the extra practice.
By this time of year, all our bodies hurt. Just getting out of bed after a Sunday game is painful. I am definitely not in favor of a 17-game season. Just look around the league at all the teams placing key players on IR. Playing this physically demanding game takes a toll on our bodies. A stretch like this coming up in the playoffs makes it all worth it. Every player's goal is to make it to February and have a chance to get a ring. *