Necessary Roughness: 1st Quarter

Haziran 16, 2024 Yazar admin 0


AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. It involves both real and fictional people and organizations. It is not necessarily an accurate depiction of how the real people depicted are in real life. The real people used are mainly background characters there for context. The central characters to the story are primarily fictional. Any portrayal of a real person has an element of fiction to it and is in no way meant to be an accurate representation of that person.

This story plays out similarly to a sports movie, and sports movies are my primary inspiration. I set the story around an NFL team, specifically the Miami Dolphins. I am basing the team loosely off the 2015 team, including the roster and list of opponents, but some players and coaches – and the schedule itself – will be fictional.

Also, this story depicts very rough sex and a lot of crass language. If you are offended by that or do not wish to read about such topics, I suggest you stop reading now.

Furthermore, this will be a four-part story. I will get the stories out as quickly as I can. Enjoy.


(June 17, Miami Gardens, Dolphins mini-camp)

The hot Miami sun seems unbeatable and interminable; just the downside of living in south Florida, I guess. I’ve been here for seven years, this being my second Dolphins mini-camp, but I’ve never really gotten used to it. But it beats the shit out of winters back home in Michigan, I guess.

I walk up and down the line, watching my players on a tackling sled. I just don’t like what I see – go figure. Ever since the ludicrous bullying scandal from two years ago, the whole unit’s been shit, and it’s not getting any better. I just…I don’t know. I’m not feeling it. But hell, they’re paying me well, and this is a springboard to something bigger.

I grab some Gatorade and look back – this one kid, he’s just not doing it right. I look at my roster – we just signed this kid. Deon Wright, his name, out of some school I’ve never heard of. And they expect this guy to be our tight end at some point? I guess Jordan Cameron had better stay healthy or we’re fucked.

As I finish off my Gatorade, I look over, and here comes an intern right for me. Camp isn’t due to let out for another hour and a half, so I’m not sure what this is about.

“Coach Garrett?” he asks. “You have a phone call.”

I look at him confused. “Look, tell Coach Philbin I’ll have my paperwork done after camp.”

“It’s not Coach Philbin,” he replies, somewhat nervously. “It’s your daughter.”

“What the hell?” Pure confusion. “She knows I have camp now.”

“She said it’s an emergency.” OK then, I guess. At least it’s air-conditioned inside.

Isabelle is my daughter – she’s nine. And she’s in Alabama with her mother, from whom I’ve been divorced for almost three years. My cheating bitch – I mean my ex, shouldn’t call her a cheating bitch around my daughter even if it’s accurate – lives in Tuscaloosa, home of a school I’ve grown to hate for a multitude of reasons. Not the least of which, of course, is my playing days – as an Auburn Tiger.

I’ll be happy to hear from Isabelle – damn I love that girl. But the word ’emergency’ is scary. I somewhat nervously pick up the phone and answer.

“Dad, I’m coming home.” What the hell? “Mom’s putting me on a plane. She’s really mad and she told me to go back home. I’ll be landing in two hours.”

“Well, this is just fucking great,” I blurt out thoughtlessly – shit. Need to watch my mouth. “Sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean that.” Certainly don’t want my daughter thinking I don’t want to see her – actually if it were up to me, I’d have her here watching practice all summer, and truth be told, she’d probably prefer it. “I’ll make sure to have a guy pick you up. You want to come by the practice facility?”

“Yes!” she screams – she loves football, even if she prefers basketball. Actually there’s a court not too far from here where she typically rounds up kids at a summer tutoring program to shoot hoops with.

“OK then, honey; I’ll see you in a few hours. Just look for a guy in a suit with a sign with your name on it. Love you.”

I turn to the nameless intern, a college kid who seems to be sweating bullets. “OK, I need a guy there in a suit with a sign. The sign needs to read Isabelle. That’s with an E on the end. I don’t want it fucked up like last year. Christ, we’re a billion-dollar football team and we can’t spell the name of the O-line coach’s daughter right at the damn airport. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Coach.” Then he disappears. I think I scared him. I was there once as a graduate assistant at Auburn. He’ll be fine – I was.

The rest of camp seems to go poorly, but then again, I’m really pissed off. I’m just not feeling it. I can’t figure it out – why they could go out and blow a hundred million and change on one guy on defense but can’t get offensive linemen who can keep Ryan Tannehill from spending more time on his back than a drunk sorority girl. And I also have to remember not to crack that joke Escort bayan in team meetings, seeing as how we have females in the front office. Apparently one of them is in charge of managing the salary cap. A Ms. Claiborne who came right over from the Cowboys. And if she can’t free up some room for some guys for me, she can go the fuck back there.

And then it happens – the car pulls up, and I see Isabelle’s smiling face in the back. Hey, at least someone’s using the ride program the NFL has, even if it’s a nine-year-old girl. Soon to be ten, and hey, I can be there for her birthday now.

She rushes out of the car and runs right to me. It sure is good to see her, even if I don’t know what the hell’s going on. I scoop her up – damn she’s getting big.

“So what happened?” I ask – but her attention quickly goes elsewhere, particularly to two of my players tossing a football. “You know what? We’ll talk when we get home. You want to toss the football with the guys?” She does, so we run out to the two guys, both tight ends.

Jordan Cameron, our starting tight end – I’m helping out tight ends coach Dan Campbell with the tight ends – knows just what to do. he pitches Isabelle the ball and she catches it without a second thought. Of course, I look at Deon, his backup – damn rookie – and he’s lost.

“Coach, what the hell?” blurts out Deon thoughtlessly – and I give him a hard look.

“This is my daughter Isabelle,” I explain. “And I’ll thank you to watch your mouth while she’s around.” That shuts him up with nothing more than a sheepish ‘OK, Coach.’ Isabelle isn’t fazed – she tosses him the ball, and wouldn’t you know it, he drops it. That’s all I need to see.

“Jordan, you and Isabelle keep going.” He gets the hint as I pull Deon aside. I see Deon’s head down – I don’t know what his deal is. I know he’s a fifth-round pick out of some Midwestern school that never played anybody, so obviously the scouts saw something in him I don’t.

“I only have so many spots on this team.” I start with 80 guys and it ends up whittled down to 53 when the season starts. “If you can’t catch a ball from a nine-year-old, how do you think you’re going to catch one from Tannehill?” He doesn’t really have a coherent response. “The team signed you for a reason. I want to see that reason. You have tomorrow’s mini-camp and the rest of today. Now show me what you got.” With that, Deon heads out while I go join Jordan and Isabelle in the football-toss. Sure is nice to blow off steam; besides, Jordan can actually catch a ball.

I take a look back at my guys – particularly this left tackle we just picked up. He’s good, but he’s a bit unhinged. Vickers, I think his name is – yes, Ronnie Vickers. We need a left tackle in the worst way, especially since Branden Albert can’t seem to stay healthy.

Isabelle and Jordan are off shooting baskets with a few other players – I don’t mind players playing basketball in downtime and I’m actually happy they stay active and expand their skill sets, plus it keeps my daughter distracted – while the offense runs a play. Deon’s blocking for Knowshon Moreno, our free-agent pickup from the Broncos, and Moreno goes down like a ton of bricks – Cameron Wake got through. I look closely – Deon’s actually a hell of a blocker. Maybe he needs to be left tackle, because Vickers just blew his assignment.

Vickers grabs Deon by his face mask – screaming at him loudly. Mike Pouncey, the group’s leader and center, walks over to break it up. I love Vickers’ passion, but he needs to know he fucked up.

I jog over – Deon’s just kind of taking it while Pouncey intervenes. I get within earshot. “Learn to block!” Pouncey tries to get in Vickers’ ear – no success. I grab Vickers by the shoulder – being 6’5″ and 240 pounds, mostly muscle, helps me in this case – I’m only 31 and train with my players, so I stay in shape.

“You got anything to say, boy?” shouts Vickers at Deon – bad idea, dude. I grab his face mask.

“The hell you think you’re doing?” I scream. I motion Deon over. “He did his job, Ronnie. You missed that block. You want to make this team, do your damn job.”

I line them up – once again, Moreno up the left side. Once again, Cameron Wake gets through – Moreno gets ahead of him and it’s a short gain. At least Vickers did his job, as did Deon.

I look over – Vickers shoves Deon to the ground. “Get the fuck back, rookie!” Jesus, dude, calm the hell down. Vickers doesn’t seem to be getting the message – again, I go over to intervene as Vickers bends down. I don’t think anyone else hears Vickers’ message to Deon but Deon – and me.

“Welcome to the NFL, you dumb fucking-” oh shit.

I got this job because of a racism scandal two seasons ago. The last thing I need is another one.

I grab Vickers by the face mask once again and yank him out. “My office after practice. Bring your playbook.” Those last three words are football-speak for ‘you’re about to get your ass cut, fucker.’ I don’t need witnesses. I don’t need media. I Bayan escort need this to not be an issue. So I send Vickers away to the locker room. Jason Fox, our backup, goes in his place. I pull Deon aside.

“I’m cutting Vickers. Can we agree to keep this whole thing with what he said quiet?” He agrees. I think even Deon knows the last thing he wants to be known as is the guy who went public because another player called him the N-word.

I kind of like Deon. He seems pretty resilient – and on the next play, he pancakes Cameron Wake. With a little help from Fox, but he does it. Now if I can get him to catch, he’s a future starter.

After practice, we all head out – Vickers seems to go peacefully, even leaving behind his playbook without a meeting. I think he knows he’s cut. Easier for me. If he goes public, I just have to say he’s cut because he’s a shithead who can’t remember his assignments. At least it’s partially true.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m exhausted, and I’m sure Isabelle is – it’s been a crazy day. So I just hope we can get home and figure out why the hell her mother sent her here after a week in Alabama; legally my ex-wife gets her for the summer and certain holidays. This is the same woman who fought me tooth-and-nail for custody but hasn’t done anything since she lost. But even this is low by her standards – no phone call, no text, no anything. What a piece of sh…I mean, work. Have to watch my mouth when Isabelle’s around.

“I really hope you’re not mad I’m home,” says my daughter on the way to the car. This may be harder than I thought.

“Not at all,” I reply, keeping in mind my thoughtless blurt into the phone. “I was upset when you called because your mother couldn’t be bothered to tell me herself she was sending you home. You didn’t do anything wrong – it’s a shame your mom’s giving you such a hard time.”

“She just woke me up this morning and told me to pack my bags.” Yeah, that sounds like my ex. “Then she told me to get in the car and drove me to the airport. She handed me a ticket and told me to call you. That was the last time I saw her.” Isabelle really is a resilient kid – all the crap her mom’s pulled and she doesn’t seem to have any serious issues.

“I don’t get it, though,” I continue. “She told me she was really looking forward to you being there. She said she wanted you to be a flower girl at her wedding to that Eddie guy.” I’m very familiar with Eddie – my bitch of an ex flew to Tuscaloosa frequently while we were married to “visit her family” when she was really fucking this dipshit – but he doesn’t bear enough thought for me to get acquainted with him.

“Eddie doesn’t really like me.” As far as I’m concerned, that’s his problem. “He wanted me in this really frilly flower girl dress, and he expected me to do all this girly stuff even when we weren’t doing wedding stuff. Something about being a proper little girl and not acting like a dyke, whatever that means.” That also sounds like my ex, and it’s sure as hell not a word I want Isabelle using in her daily life – my sister’s gay. And that means Isabelle ha a lesbian aunt, one who’s a hell of a lot better at this whole parent thing than my ex. “I just wanted to get some kids together for a basketball game. And I knew there were kids who wanted to play. But Mom and Eddie got mad. She made me paint my fingernails. By the way, can you help me get this stuff off later?”

“I have a better idea,” I say, thinking quickly as I think to myself how much easier it is to have a tomboy for a daughter. She loves sports, she’s good at science, she hates nail polish and dresses – as far as daughters go, I couldn’t ask for a better one, at least for a football coach who doesn’t have a clue how to braid hair.

I make a detour – for Children’s Hospital. It’s not far, and as we approach, Isabelle’s eyes light up. It seems strange that a nine-year-old is thrilled to go to a hospital – until one understands her best friend is recovering from leukemia.

Isabelle can’t get inside fast enough, though that’s partly because it’s 110 degrees out and about that humid. Seriously, the air’s so thick I could cut it with a knife and spread it on a baked potato. And now I want a baked potato. I guess we’re eating at the steakhouse across the street, which is good with me because I really don’t feel like cooking.

“How can I help you?” asks the bubbly volunteer behind the desk – it’s June so the college kids off for the summer are still in good moods. Give it to the middle of August and they’ll be ready to get the hell out of here.

“We’re here to see Crystal Ballmer.” Yes, if you drop the last three letters of her name, it’s Crystal Ball. And no, I didn’t name her.

Just don’t get me started on the people who did – her father hasn’t been in the picture since before she was born, and last anyone herd, he was in state prison on drug charges.

When we arrive, Crystal is in a chair doing a word search – hooked up to an IV but otherwise looks to be doing Escort well. It doesn’t take the girls long at all to reconnect – Isabelle dashes into the room and embraces her smiling friend.

“I thought you weren’t coming back until August!” shouts Crystal, a curly-haired black girl who’s the same age as Isabelle – as in they have the same birthday, July 25, even just a couple of hours apart. When they were little, they had birthday parties together, a practice that came to an end when my ex got Isabelle in the summer – and will be resuming now that Isabelle’s home.

“I’d rather be here,” Isabelle answers her friend – leaving out the bitch move her mother pulled. Fortunately, Crystal has nail polish remover on hand – Crystal’s a bit more girly than Isabelle, even if she loves basketball just as much.

Good timing for me – I have to make a call or two. First to the office – they need to know about Vickers. Apparently the big boys are out – only one person in the office.

“Aisha Claiborne,” the voice on the other end.

“Yes, hi, it’s Neil Garrett, O-line coach,” I reply – she’s never met me so I’m a little in the weeds. “I need the office staff to know I had to make a cut today. Mm-hmm, Ronnie Vickers, left tackle.”

“Wait, Vickers?” she blurts. “Do you know how much we sunk into that contract? You’re really putting us in a tight spot, Neil.”

“And my hands are tied. He has to go.” She’s asking why. Not sure I want to go into it. I look for a private room – and luckily find one. “What I’m about to tell you is on a need-to-know basis. No media.”

“Just please tell me he didn’t assault a coach or use a slur of some kind and we’ll all get along.” And with that, I’m silent. “Do I have to guess which one?”

“Let’s just leave it at that, Aisha,” I reply. “So I need a left tackle. What can we do?”

“Two things, Neil – jack and squat.” We’re at 80 players until the beginning of September – why the hell not? “Left tackles don’t just fall out of the sky. Work with what you have.”

“Well, the hell with you, too,” I snap, hanging up. A healthy amount of rage is building up – just what I need going into my next call. To my bitch of an ex.

“What do you want?” she snaps, knowing it’s me.

“I don’t think you’re in any position to yell at me, Andrea,” I scold. “What the hell was that?”

“Well, if you would teach your daughter to be a lady, I wouldn’t have to-“

“Oh, fuck you, Andrea,” I snap.

“Real nice, Neil.” Yeah, it is. “You teach her to talk like that too?”

“I can talk like that around you if I want to, you deadbeat bitch,” I fire back. “I watch my mouth around her unlike that alcoholic fuckwad you’re marrying. And I know he’s the reason you put Isabelle on a plane back home. What are you going to do when he tells you to do something you really don’t want to do, Andrea?”

“You can stop this, Neil,” she demands. “You can take that job back here I got you. It’s still open, and you and I can share custody of little Belle.”

“For the last fucking time, stop calling her that!” Isabelle hates to be called Belle – Andrea calls her that because it reminds her of that princess from Beauty and the Beast. And Isabelle is no princess – she actively hates princesses, Disney or otherwise. “And if you want to make it work so bad, move out to Miami and be a mom.”

“This is home, and you know it.” Like hell it is. “I got you that job here in Tuscaloosa because I don’t want to be married to a football coach.” The job she refers to was in the donations office at University of Alabama – basically calling up widows and old dudes and asking them to send a thousand dollars. Typically students and housewives do it. And they typically last either years and years or about four days. “Football’s so stupid, and you know it.”

“Then I guess it’s a good thing you decided to hook up with a football player!” To be fair, I know full well she didn’t know I played football when I visited Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl – that bit of ignorance coupled with a faulty condom led to Isabelle’s birth, and a bitter dispute and a threat of prison time for so-called rape led to me and Andrea getting married. “Look, I’m sick of this. And I’m sick of your bullshit. Either learn to be a halfway decent mom and keep that drunk at bay when Isabelle’s there, grow a spine and dump his ass and move out here, or get the fuck out of the way and let me raise Isabelle myself. It’s up to you.”

She doesn’t answer. She continues to let the line be silent. Then I hear her talking in the background – then Eddie’s voice. Clearly he’s had a few too many – such a role model, he is. I’d follow him to hell and back.

“I got an idea, Neil,” she shouts. “I’m suing you for custody.”

“Good luck, Andrea,” I taunt. “You’re going to need it. Now fuck off.” I hang up – now I need to calm down. Unfortunately I don’t get much time to do it – a woman in a business suit approaches me.

“Sir, are you here for Crystal?” I confirm it. “Well, we have some good news for Crystal. We found her a foster family.”

I listen closely – this affects my daughter, who will want to see her friend as much as she can. “We’ll be bringing them in soon to meet with Crystal. They’re a great couple from about an hour north of here.”

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