JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Coach Doug Marrone was just about to release his players for a two-day break Sunday when defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Jarrod Wilson and several other Jacksonville Jaguars chimed in with a request.
“Poz, Poz, Poz,” they chanted.
They wanted veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny front and center.
Posluszny sheepishly made his way to the middle of the locker room to break down the huddle. It was a fitting choice following the team’s ninth victory because it also secured Posluszny his first winning record in 11 NFL seasons.G Hardware, Inc.
“It was special,” Posluszny said Wednesday. “It was awesome to feel the general appreciation for that and how much as teammates we love and respect each other. I’m lucky to be a part of this group.”
Posluszny and Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito had been the only players with 10 or more years in the league to never experience a winning season, according to research by TruMedia Networks.
Posluszny hopes to notch another first Sunday: The Jaguars (9-4) can clinch a playoff berth with a victory at home against Houston (4-9).
A second-round draft pick by Buffalo in 2007, the former Penn State standout went 7-9 in his first two years with the Bills and figured a winning season — and a trip to the postseason — was on the horizon. But his next eight years included three times as many losses (96) as wins (32), a humbling stretch that left him wondering when, and if, it would happen.
The Jaguars had the worst record (22-74) in the NFL during Posluszny’s first six seasons in Jacksonville (2011-16).
“When I got here in 2011, I thought we were going to the playoffs because David Garrard was going to be our quarterback and we were going to have a great defense,” Posluszny recalled. “And it just didn’t unfold the way you thought.
“To be at the bottom and to finally fight our way, work our way and get back up, just to be in the position that we’re at now, it’s great and it shows you that we’ve finally started to earn the right to win. Now we want more.”
Teammates and coaches want more for Posluszny, a consummate pro who does everything right on and off the field. The 33-year-old Pittsburgh native rarely misses assignments or games. He has 1,367 tackles, 16 sacks, 15 interceptions, respect from peers and now a winning season.
“It’s amazing. It’s whack because I know that it hasn’t been because of him. You get what I’m saying?” Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “It sucks that a really good player like that — who does everything right, has never been fined, never complains, unselfish — has never had a winning season. You’ve got guys that don’t even care about the game as much as he does riding the wave on some teams. It’s (bull).
“It’s good that he’s experiencing this and is a pivotal piece of our team. That’s one of the most important parts. He’s not just a guy happy to be on a team with a jersey, barely making the team, on the bubble. No, he’s a contributor and doing his thing. That’s dope.”
Although Posluszny remains Jacksonville’s starting middle linebacker, he no longer makes the defensive calls and typically comes off the field in passing situations. His snap count is way down, but he feels better than ever in mid-December.
He’s a free agent at the end of the season, and even though the Jags would love to bring him back, he could look to land on a team that would make him an every-down linebacker again.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying the kind of success that eluded him for a decade. And the Jaguars are glad to help get him in this position.
“Don’t ever assume that you’re going to come into this league and win no matter where you are or what it says on paper,” Marrone said. “It’s very difficult to win in this league, and even though you may be a good football player, it’s not one person that can do it, You’re going to need a whole team. I think those are the lessons to learn when you look at a player that has played at a very high level, that’s done everything possible that, if you wanted to clone what a person should be, his picture would probably be right next to it.
“If you had a son like I do and you want him to grow up, you’d want him to grow up just like” Posluszny.