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Cherish the moment

Posted Dec 29, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars enter the regular season finale knowing that whatever happens next, game will be last time group will be together

JACKSONVILLE – Brad Meester knows the situation.

Meester, a 13-year veteran center, is like anyone else around the Jaguars as the season draws to a close. He knows the record, and knows that in the NFL, a record such as 2-13 makes the days around the regular-season finale an uncertain time at best.

But Meester also knows this:

The Jaguars on Sunday play a regular-season game, and in the NFL, you only get so many chances to do that. So as Meester sees it, whatever the record, whatever the circumstance, it’s an opportunity to be savored. And that’s just what he plans to do.

“Really, I’ve done that for a while now, because you just never know,” Meester said as the Jaguars (2-13) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (5-10) in the 2012 regular-season finale at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.

“You appreciate everything about this game, and you just never know. No matter what year you’re in, or what the situation, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

That’s an approach Jaguars veterans and players of various experience took this week.

“With the last one, preparation-wise, it’s just like all the other ones,” middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “But it’s the last game of the year for us. It’s the last time this team, this group of guys, gets to play together, so we really want to finish with a win.

“We want to go there on the road, win and then come back with that good feeling and finish off the season.”

The Jaguars, who last week assured they would finish with the most losses in franchise history, can secure a .500 record in the AFC South with a victory. They lost twice to the Houston Texans, but beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 and beat the Titans at EverBank Field in late November.

A victory Sunday also would secure a season sweep of the Titans. They also swept Tennessee in 1997 and again in 2009.

“It’s a division game,” Posluszny said. “Even though we’re both out of the playoffs and all that stuff, it’s still a division game. So we always want to play well in our division. It’s something to build on. We weren’t successful out of the division that’s for sure, but it’s definitely something to build on going into the offseason.”

The Jaguars for a second consecutive season enter the season finale well under .500, with a roster significantly hurt at season’s end by injuries.

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts, the team’s two best offensive players, each were placed on injured reserve this week, and front-line players such as quarterback Blaine Gabbert, wide receiver Laurent Robinson, safety Dwight Lowery, defensive end Andre Branch also have been placed on injured reserve.

Toney Clemons, a rookie recently signed off the Steelers’ practice squad, is expected to start at wide receiver, and rookies Steve Vallos and Austin Pasztor – each of whom were signed to the active roster in December – will start at guard.

For those players – and others – the game represents an opportunity to show the Jaguars and other teams they belong in the NFL on long-term basis.

“It’s a big opportunity,” Mularkey said. “I know it’s important for everybody but for those guys, I think this will bring them back for sure. We’re evaluating them all the time, but these guys – you have nothing to go off of but maybe one game for a number of plays. You’ve got to base a lot of things on those number of plays.”

For older Jaguars players, the game has different meaning.

Meester, who considered retirement prior to this season before returning because he liked the direction of the franchise, said that remains true, and that he has told team officials he would be interested in returning for a 14th season.

He is not the only well-known veteran in the final year of his contract. Linebacker Daryl Smith, fullback Greg Jones, offensive tackle Eben Britton, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and cornerback Rashean Mathis all are playing under contracts that expire at the end of the season.

Some may return, others may not, and the same is true for the front office and coaching staff, with speculation circulating that changes may or may not occur on those fronts following the season. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan has said only that he is evaluating, and he said at midseason he wouldn’t make quick-trigger decisions during the season.

As the Jaguars enter the regular-season finale, those are all issues and those are the primary storylines for those discussing the game from the outside.

Within the team, though, Meester said those issues aren’t the focus, and that that’s because there is a game to be played. That, he said, is an opportunity to be savored whatever the record and whatever the circumstance surrounding it.

“You have to enjoy every minute you’re out there, because every one could be the last one,” Meester said. “You have to take advantage of the opportunities you’re given. I didn’t realize that as a young guy. You always think, ‘I’m going to play this game and get ready for next year.’ The crazy thing is this is the last time this group will be out there together.

“No matter what happens, people are going to be added and people are going to be gone. It’s a fact of life in the NFL. We’ve been together since April, grinding in the tough times, but this is the last time we go out together as a group. However the season turned out, that matters.

“You have to cherish this moment together, enjoy this last game together and get a win together.”

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