Eagles right tackle Winston Justice is writing a weekly column for the Daily News this season. His column appears Wednesdays.
ON SUNDAY NIGHT, I got a little taste of what it will be like watching the NFL from home as a retired player. Although this was only a 1-week thing, I can definitely tell you it was even harder for me to watch the game against Dallas from home than it would have been to be out there on the field playing. I was thrilled that we won, but to be honest, I was sad I wasn't part of it. Sitting at home was a sharp reality check. No matter who you are and what you perceive your value to the team to be, the game still kicks off at the scheduled time regardless of who is out there. The team needs no one particular person in the NFL. That boat will keep on sailing.
I was wracked with guilt as my 2-year-old son was jumping on daddy while my teammates clashed with Jay Ratliff and friends. I can't tell you how depressing it is to sit on your couch and watch your team doing warmups on TV and not be out there with them. I can't miss another Sunday. Right now, I am working my hardest to get my knee right, so I can be back out there playing. The Eagles have the hardest-working training staff in the NFL. They seldom get the recognition they deserve, so I want to make sure I point that out. They have the ultimate task of every week getting guys healthy and ready to play. They are the first people in the facility and often the last ones to leave.
One thing I missed most while being at home was the camaraderie with my teammates. The plane ride and the bus ride to the hotel on Saturdays are one big laughfest. Now, please don't read too much into that; it's all part of staying loose before a game and not getting too uptight. On game day, though, the mood shifts from a loose atmosphere to a business trip. Another thing I missed not traveling was the highlight tape the team watches on Saturday nights in the hotel from a win the prior week. In Dallas, the team watched the highlights from our win against the Texans. Every time we win, it is a treat to watch. Guys get hyped. It's motivation to perform to the best of our abilities on game day.
I feel for Brandon Graham, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament, and my next-door neighbor, Stewart Bradley, who dislocated his elbow. I saw Stew's arm and, man, it did not look good. It was so swollen, it looked like Popeye's arm. Stew is tough . . . He was already talking about how fast he was going to come back. Brandon is young and hungry, I am sure he will be ready to go by camp.
Finally, I would like to congratulate my fellow lineman, Todd Herremans, for catching his second touchdown in the Cowboys game. Every lineman's dream is to get the opportunity to score a touchdown. If I didn't wrap my hands up so much, they could put me out there at tight end. This season is a time for sharing, Todd. Please let one of us have a turn.
Thank you for the questions. Please keep them coming. And to all those who leave comments online, especially the negative ones, please leave your phone number, too.
Question: How many hours before a game do you get to the stadium and what do you do to get ready?
We are required to get to the game 2 hours before kickoff. When I arrive at the stadium I watch some game film on my portable DVD, get dressed, warm up on the field, come back inside and put on the rest of my pads and wristbands, get taped and then go back out with the entire team for warmups.
Have a question for Winston? Send your question, along with your name and town to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Winston will answer the best questions in upcoming columns.