JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Feeling like he has another year in him and not wanting to end his career with the worst season in franchise history, veteran center Brad Meester decided Tuesday to keep playing.
Meester signed a one-year contract to play a 14th season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I felt like I still had some left,” Meester said. “The last couple of years have been pretty good. I didn’t want to leave and regret playing one more year if I still had something left.”
A second-round draft pick in 2000, Meester holds franchise records for games played (193) and started (193). He will enter next season with a streak of 74 consecutive starts, tied for the second-longest in team history and the second-longest streak among active NFL centers.
He met with new general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley in recent days, and said their energy played a role in keeping him around.
“Just talking to them for a couple of minutes, just seeing the energy they had and what they wanted to do with this organization, I want to be a part of that,” Meester said. “I want to help in this rebuild and want to help turn this thing around.”
Meester has been an integral part of Jacksonville’s offense through several coaching changes and even more rebuilding projects.
But given the franchise’s direction — Caldwell plans to rebuild through the draft and not spend big in free agency — Meester had a tough call to make. Should he take less money to play or head into retirement at age 35?
“I know we’re doing the right things here, and I think that’s what was most important to me,” Meester said. “We’re bringing in the right guys and we’re going to do things the right way. Just because we’re a young team doesn’t mean we can’t be a great team. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people and I’m excited about it. We’re going to come in and work hard, do things the right way and I believe good things are going to happen.”
Of the 255 players selected in the 2000 NFL draft, Meester, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress are the only position players remaining on NFL rosters.
“I don’t know if there’s any secret,” Meester said. “For me, it’s just been about every day that I’m here just doing the best that I can. Really just giving everything I’ve got and just letting it take care of itself, and it’s gotten me to this point.”
And it could carry him into 2014.
Meester doesn’t want to declare this his final season, opting to keep his options open.
“I don’t know what the year holds,” he said. “It’s a long season. That’s the way I’ve approached it the last several years, just one year at a time. We’ll just see what happens at the end of the season. … You never can close that door. I can’t foretell the future. I would have thought I’d been done two or three years ago. I think I was on my way out of here. Four years ago, people thought I was gone. I just said that I was going to take it one at a time and do my best, and here I am now.
“I’m not going to say, `This is it.’ Hopefully we’re sitting at this table again next year. I don’t know. We’ll just approach it when it comes I guess.”