Brad Meester catches a break, but not a TD
December, 22, 2013
By Michael DiRocco | ESPN.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When the call came in from the sideline, Jaguars center Brad Meester got nervous.
But not because he was going to get a chance to score a touchdown in his final game at EverBank Field in front of his family.
He was worried he would embarrass himself in front of 60,559 people.
"The thing that ran through my head was, 'Don't drop the ball,'" Meester said following the Jaguars 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans. "I knew I would catch a lot of flak if I got open one time in my life and I dropped the ball. That was the one thing I was focusing on is catching it."
You can understand his uneasiness. Offensive linemen don’t get to catch passes or score touchdowns very often. Tackles sometimes do when they line up as extra tight ends. But centers never do.
Until Sunday, when offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley decided to give Meester a shot as a way to say “thank you” for being a vital part of the Jaguars franchise for the past 14 seasons. They put the play -- called Pass 5 Weak Screen to Brad -- in the game plan and practiced it all week.
On second-and-8 from the Tennessee 13-yard line late in the first quarter, they called it.
Left guard Jacques McClendon moved to center and Drew Nowak, who was just activated from the practice squad this week, went in at left guard. Meester lined up to the right of tackle Austin Pasztor.
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCenter Brad Meester made his first NFL catch in the final home game of his 14-year Jaguars' career.
He went about 3 yards down field, turned around, and caught the pass from Chad Henne, just like he had done all week. Every time they practiced the play he caught it. Not a single drop. Even if he had been tackled immediately he would have been a hero to his linemen teammates.
"Have you seen his hands?" Pasztor said. "His fingers are all bent every which way. It is remarkable that he can hold onto the ball."
The rest of the play was an example of why offensive linemen don’t catch passes. Meester ran into the back of right guard Uche Nwaneri, tried to juke a defender, and cut inside instead of outside, where Pasztor was waiting to make a block. Had he done that, he may have scored.
"He’s a lineman. You think he’s going to see that?" Nwaneri said. "He’s just like, ‘RUN! RUN!' That’s how I would have been."
Meester admitted he maybe sort of panicked.
"I couldn't figure out what to do," he said. "Am I going outside? Am I going inside? Is he moving? I stuck there for a while and finally went inside, and there were a couple of guys waiting for me."
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said he probably would have cut outside.
"Yeah it was [free outside] but his speed and my speed are a little different," he said. "I think he’s running 7s not 4s."
Jones-Drew, though, is partly to blame. At no time this past week did he give Meester any tips on reading blocks. It’s not like that’s something an offensive lineman is supposed to know.
"If you ask Drew [Nowak] he would say he played running back so he’d probably tell you he does know how to read blocks," Pasztor said. "I think the majority of us probably don’t."
Meester eventually was tackled after a 9-yard gain, giving the Jaguars a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Henne hit Marcedes Lewis on the next play for a touchdown.
Meester wasn’t bummed about not getting to score. He said it’s a play he’ll always remember, not only because it was a chance to live out every offensive lineman’s dream but because it was a sign of how the coaching staff and franchise feels about him. He’ll also never forget the crowd after the play, either.
"It also meant a lot when after the catch they started cheering, ‘Meester.’" He said. "That was pretty cool. I never had anything like that happen in my life, except maybe at the house."
Had he scored, though, it would have been pandemonium, Jones-Drew said.
"The whole team was ready to get a penalty so it was kind of good that he didn’t score because I think everyone was going to run on the field if he got in," Jones-Drew said. "The bench probably would have emptied."
The catch, as it no doubt will go down as in Meester’s household, was part of a bigger tribute to the 14-year veteran, who announced earlier this week that this will be his final season. He was the only Jaguars player introduced before the game and the team held an on-field ceremony after the game in which he and his family were presented with four framed No. 63 jerseys.
That was a fitting tribute to a player who owns the franchise record for most games played and started (208) and the two longest streaks of consecutive starts (92 and 89). Meester was grateful for the pregame and postgame honors and for Bradley and Fisch giving him a chance to live every offensive lineman’s dream.
"I didn't break down and cry," Meester said. "I did get emotional. It was an emotional time. It really started to get me when I went out for pregame warm-up. I could hear people yelling at me and I could see some signs out there. That was awesome. I never had a sign for myself and there were several.
"There was even a Fat Head out there, which my kids have outside and are excited about."
Probably more than had their dad scored a touchdown.