September 22, 2017
BY Jermon Bushrod AT 5:37 PM ON 9/22/17
What a wild way to start the season.
I never thought I’d be tested in such a major way in my 11th NFL campaign. That’s just further proof that I never have it figured out and continue to rely on faith for guidance.
In every negative comes a positive — and while we were tested — most of us didn’t have our lives ravaged like so many folks in the countries that Irma hit the hardest and the other places of Florida that are trying to bounce back from severe damage. That doesn’t include the people in Texas, who responded in a major way in the aftermath of Harvey but are just beginning their recovery.
As NFL players and members of the Miami Dolphins — we could just do the best with the hand we were dealt and go do our jobs. There isn’t a playbook for this kind of stuff. We don’t prepare for Week 1 byes and unexpected relocation across the country, all while making sure our families, friends and loved ones are taken care of.
We adjusted on the fly and put forth our best effort in the week leading up to our first game. I tried to stick to my routine and though it wasn’t easy at times, it worked out. I like the attitude of this team and beating a really good Chargers team on the road was a good start—- though there’s plenty of work left to be done.
Each week during the season, I’ll try my best to give Miami Dolphins fans —and anybody interested, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into my world.
I hope you enjoy the ride.
Irma came to town (written week of Sept. 4)
It’s no secret now, but our season got off to a not-so-ideal start. We’ve been preparing all summer focused on our home opener against the Bucs, but Hurricane Irma had other plans in mind.
We started to hear about Irma a few days after Harvey hit Texas and it quickly became evident that Florida could find itself in the eye of the storm — a monster that meteorologists classified as a Category 5 hurricane. There were talks of Irma being worse than Harvey, a terrifying thought to say the least. Things began to get crazy — and very real — at the beginning of last week (Sept. 4-Sept. 10). South Florida was projected to get the brunt of it and people started to panic, prepare and plan.
The NFL ultimately decided to cancel our game against Tampa Bay— which meant Week 1 would become our bye week. I’ve seen some crazy stuff in my 11 years, but this was near the top. I’m pretty sure it was the first time in the history of the NFL a team had their bye week essentially taken away. I know a team has NEVER had a Week 1 bye. It makes our schedule tougher but we have to change our mindset and embrace the process that we’re going through.
Some guys were happy with the decision, others were frustrated, but when you’re playing with Mother Nature there’s little time for decision making. This was so much bigger than football. We all have families. Everyone that works for both organizations has families. It’s not ideal but we MUST adjust.
In times like these, I don’t think much, I just react. I wasn’t about to stick around Miami with no power and a risk for severe damage. There was a shortage of airline tickets out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale and I had absolutely no interest in driving anywhere. Did you see the insanity on the highways? No thanks.
My family teamed up with Mike Pouncey and his family to charter a plane and get out of South Florida on Thursday. They dropped us off in Richmond and headed up to Pittsburgh where Mike’s home is. At this point, we had no clue when/if we’d even be coming back to Miami. We didn’t know where we would be practicing and were in the dark about details about the following week (last week), so we waited to hear word about preparing for our upcoming game against the Chargers.
Hell of a way to start the season, right?
It was technically my bye week — a time meant to refresh, catch up with family and restore your body and mind. I was only able to get three workouts total in during that time because of all the runaround — and that’s never ideal. The whole weekend of the storm, my family and I were glued to our phones and computers checking the cameras outside of our house in Miami. It didn’t take long for the power to go out so we couldn’t see anything at all. It’s an unsettling feeling to not have any idea if your home and belongings are okay. We just bought this house and our plan is to stick around Miami for a while.
I was just happy to be SAFE with my family in Virginia where I grew up and my parents still live. The day after the storm, the cameras came back on so I assumed the power was restored. We had a friend go by and check our property — and for the most part — there was minimal damage. What a blessing as we now know there was some terrible destruction in neighboring countries and various places throughout our state.
There was some debris littered throughout the yard and two trees had fallen down.
Jessica — my wife— HATED one of those trees so she was happy it was finally down (and I didn’t even have to hire anyone to cut it). In all seriousness, we were so incredibly fortunate.
Making the best of a rough situation
I learned a long time ago that unexpected events are inevitably going to happen in life. You can either embrace them and make the best of a negative situation — or go the other route and feel sorry for yourself.
It felt weird and unconventional, but hey, it was still my bye week after all. It’s rare I get back to Virginia this time of year and it was cool to bring the whole family and get some solid bonding time. Jessica, my two kids (Jermon Jr. & Jayla) and I got to have a nice family dinner when we got to town. I caught a high school football game at King George, my H.S. alma mater which was great as I’m never around in the fall. I run a camp there every summer, but it was awesome to see the kids in action under those Friday night lights. It never gets old.
I was able to attend my first ever NASCAR race in Richmond on Saturday night. My biggest takeaway? It was loud. Really loud. I spent some time focusing on the dudes in in the pits doing all the grunt work. There are a lot of similarities between pits crews and offensive linemen as we both do a bunch of the leg work that often goes unnoticed, but that’s how we like it. Talladega Nights is a classic and one of my favorite movies so it was fun to see an actual race. Ricky Bobby was right. They like to go fast. Shake and bake, baby.
Game Week 1 (written after settling in LA at temporary facility)
We were notified Friday that our team headquarters were being moved to Oxnard Calif. (summer home of the Dallas Cowboys) for the week while we prepare for our game against the Chargers. I got my itinerary on Sunday and flew out to LA on Monday so it was obviously a major adjustment for all of us.
It’s all good, though. Great practice fields. Big, spacious rooms. Although we did get evacuated from South Florida — it was a pretty ideal situation given the circumstances. Hats off to everyone who made it happen on short notice.
Friday is usually the day I really start to prepare my mind for the upcoming Sunday game. Usually when we are playing at home it’s a lot easier to function in my routine because I know where everything is. My day is organized and in tact. It’s different out here in Oxnard. I have to find a new person to give me a massage, I have to figure out dinner. There were some tweaks to my usual plan, but I made it work. I like to eat pasta on Friday nights before games just to bulk up on carbs. I like to get my haircut on Friday. After practice, I like to lift. On Friday afternoon, I hit the cold tub to try to get my legs fresh. When the sun begins to set, I relax and just let my body and mind calm down.
On Saturday — the day before the game —I wake up pretty early and stick to my routine. Routine is everything to me during the season. I review my playbook as much as I can and ALWAYS try to take a nap. That’s clutch. When I get up from my nap, I either head to the hotel (if we have a lot of people in town) or stay at home. Saturday nights are calm and relaxed so I might watch a little college football while I get into my stretch routine (last chance to get all of the kinks out). I review the playbook a little bit more before bed and then focus on getting a good night’s sleep.
Like I said earlier — it’s imperative we focus and shift our mindset to the road in front of us. No one is going to feel sorry for us or our situation. There hasn’t been any time to focus on anything other than our opener against the Chargers — a squad that looked pretty good against the Broncos on Monday night after putting together an improbable 4th quarter comeback, but just fell short. It’s time to set our goals for the season and go accomplish them.
I’ve been part of 10 season openers and I can honestly say I love where this team is right now.
Dolphins 19, Chargers 17 (written after game)
While I know it’s just a game, if we can help keep our fans escape their current situation and keep their mind in a good place for just three hours on a Sunday — we are doing our jobs.
It was an incredible feeling to see all of the Dolphins’ fans taking over the stadium in LA (during their FIRST EVER HOME OPENER). I’d say it was at least 60 percent filled with Phins’ faithful — and I’ve rarely seen that in any stadium on the road in my career.
While the game was far from perfect — I thought it was a solid start. I don’t want a pat on the back or any praise, but it says a lot about the guys in the locker room to come out with a win, on the other side of the country with so much adversity trying to bog us down.
Our offense clicked and we found a rhythm. It was tough to see Ryan go down but Jay came in and has had a seamless transition. I played with Jay in Chicago and it’s clear he has some great football left in the tank. We put together a balanced offensive game plan, finishing the day with 336 total yards and no turnovers. Jay threw for 225 yards and a TD while Jay Ajayi picked up 122 yards on the ground. We felt good up front in both pass protection and run blocking but still gave up two sacks — an area we will focus on fixing this week.
Remember, this was our first game while every other team (except the Bucs) had already gotten a chance to work the kinks out. We have a long way to go, but I’m pleased with the direction we are headed.
I assume most everyone reading this tuned in, but that ending was nothing short from intense. We put together a nice offensive drive right before the two-minute warning and Cody Parkey came up big, sinking a 54-yard FG to give us the 19-17 lead. Phillip Rivers is one of the best in high-pressure situations at the end of the game, but our defense held strong in the final minute. I didn’t know what to think when their kicker took the field to attempt a 44-yard FG — which obviously would have won the game for them.
I tried not to watch and began to think of everyone back in Miami. I heard the stadium erupt — and with all of the ‘Pains fans in the house — I knew he missed it.
Just like that, we were 1-0.
It was a long plane ride home so I had time to watch film — and replayed the game three times in a row. I thought I played okay— but felt like there were four or five plays I left out there. I know exactly what I have to do to be better next week and will continue to perfect my craft. Even at this point in my career, I’m constantly learning and growing.
We are back home now getting refreshed, putting in our game plan and preparing for the trip to New York to play the Jets. There are still people hurting all over Florida and we are working to see how we can help. For now, though, this season is for you guys — the people of Florida who support the Miami Dolphins.
I’ll do my part to help make you proud — and am confident my teammates will do the same.
Catch up with you guys next week.