Long Snaps with Bryan Pittman: Swimming with Belugas and Dreaming of Playoffs
JCF: How was your week off?
BP: Well, I went up and hunted at my buddy’s ranch for two-and-a-half days. That was my relaxation. I was deer hunting and saw a couple smaller bucks and some does, but didn’t get to shoot at anything. But it was relaxing. But then I came back, grabbed the fiancée, and we packed up and went to San Antonio for the weekend.
JCF: Nice. How was that?
BP: It was fun. We stayed down there on the Riverwalk, at a hotel there. Did that whole experience and had a good time. Then Sunday we went to SeaWorld, my first time there. We actually got to interact with the beluga whales and that was a pretty neat experience.
JCF: Did you actually get to go in the water with them?
P: Yeah, we were in the water with them. We got to pet ‘em, and give them commands, and just hang out with them. It was an awesome experience.
JCF: How did you swing that?
BP: I did it all online. I saw that they offered this particular interactive program and thought it would be something that Suzy and myself would really enjoy, and we did.
JCF: When you experience a bye week like that, does it make you look forward to the day when you don’t have to roll out of bed with your body aching, you don’t have to keep yourself in tip-top shape, and you don’t have to worry about what you’re eating day after day after day?
BP: I think I had those thoughts more so in the past when we weren’t winning. That was kind of the mind set. You try not to get in that frame of mind where you’re thinking “Man, I can’t wait ‘til I can wake up and not have to go to treatment, or go work-out or go run.” But pretty much nowadays, football is a year-round deal. The couple of months that you do get off, you can’t just go home and sit on the couch and eat whatever you please and do nothing.
JCF: Was that sort of discipline difficult to come by for you, or did you come by it naturally?
BP: My first two years, I wasn’t used to the length of the season. 20 games including the pre-season, that’s a lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of struggle to keep your body healthy and in great shape, and just to keep focused mentally and to stay positive.
JCF: Not to look too far ahead, but how many years do you think you have left in the NFL?
BP: Barring career threatening injuries, I don’t know. My goal was to play ten years. My original goal was just to play one year, until I finally cracked the NFL, and made the team and actually made it. I would have been elated just to play one year in the NFL, but as the years have gone by and I’ve been able to remain in the league, my goal has been pushed back and I’d like to stay ten years. But I’m gonna play until the kick me out, basically.
JCF: Do you want to explore the coaching option when you retire? I know you’ve got some business options outside of the game.
BP: Right now, if it were to end today, I would probably go into either coaching or scouting. Also going back to school. I’ve got a little bit over a year left to get my BA, and that’s actually something I’m working on right now. I’m looking at enrolling at the University of Houston this spring to get that underway.
JCF: What are you getting your BA in?
BP: Well, originally psychology. But I kind of lost interest in it, so I’ve shifted my focus more to something like exercise science, or --I’ve become more interested in history—so maybe something history-related. One of those two fields, definitely.
JCF: All right, I guess we better talk some football now, eh? It almost feels like you guys haven’t played in a month, and that’s probably because it’s been about that long since you played a home game. How are you guys feeling as you prepare for the stretch run here?
BP: I think we feel pretty good. It gave all of us enough time to kind of relax and take a break from football, and think about where we’re at and what we can do with these next seven games. Obviously, we’ve got to take it one game at a time, but it feels good to still be in the hunt for the playoffs.
JCF: So you guys still have the playoffs firmly in mind then?
BP: Oh yeah, we’re definitely not ruling out the possibility of that.
JCF: Well, it certainly helps your cause that you’re finally getting some guys back from injury. How are Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub looking on the practice field this week?
BP: They’re looking good. Andre looks just as good as he did before he was injured and Matt’s the same. Ahman is battling that tendinitis in the knee, but everyone else is back on track, so our offense should be as potent as it was those first two games of the season.
JCF: The bye week seemed to arrive at a pretty good time for you guys. I’d think the mental break had to have been almost as sorely needed as the physical. A lot of negativity had been building, so you got a chance to get away from that for a bit. Do you feel as if this is sort of a new season for you and the rest of the team?
BP: Yeah, in a way it does. You know, we still have seven games to go, and it’s not impossible to win every game. And if we end up 11-5, we’re definitely playoff material.
JCF: That sort of seems like a stretch, but I guess you do have one thing going in your favor: this time last year, you guys really started to get on a roll.
BP: Yeah, I definitely think we can carry over that trend from last year and get on that roll this year. Especially with our upgrades at the skill positions. You know, if we’re going to get it going again, we need Ahman staying healthy, Matt Schaub playing good, and Andre coming back and performing like he did those first two games.
JCF: Well, speaking of rolls, no team is on a bigger one right now than New England. I know you hate the Pats, but do you think they’ll go undefeated? Be honest.
BP: They have a good chance. I’d say better than the Colts did last year or the year before. Just the way they’re playing and the way their offense is controlling the games that they play, and their defense is doing a decent job. I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. They definitely have a good shot. But when it gets late in the season, they can’t relax and rest their starters for the playoffs. If they do that, then someone’s definitely going to take them.
JCF: So what would you do in that situation? Go for history, or rest up and make sure the team is healthy for a Super Bowl run?
BP: That’s a good question. From a coaching standpoint, you definitely don’t want to see anyone injured, when you already have home-field advantage. But on the other hand, that’s something that’s only been done once before in the NFL, so I don’t know. It’s a toss-up, flip a coin.
JCF: Do you see any team out there right now capable of knocking them off?
BP: In the AFC, I’d say Pittsburgh. They definitely have a shot. But other than Indy, I don’t really see any other teams.
JCF: What about your upcoming game against New Orleans? With the way both teams’ defenses have played of late, it looks like it might end up looking like an Arena Football game out there, don’t you think?
BP: Well, I definitely expect our defense to step up. I expect our defensive front to get in there and harass the quarterback and make him make some poor decisions.
JCF: Wait a second. So you don’t see it being a shootout?
BP: No, I really don’t see it being high-scoring.
JCF: Wow, okay. Well, since you guys are still thinking playoffs, I guess it’s safe to assume everyone in your locker room knows just how important this game is...
BP: Yeah, everyone’s aware of how important this game is. I think the Saints are equally aware. It’s gonna be a battle to the end, since both teams understand that a 4-6 record makes [a playoff run] that much more difficult.
JCF: Last question. Every kid who grew up playing sports visualized a dream sequence or two where they scored the winning touchdown or hit the winning shot. Do you still daydream about such things, and if so, what is your dream scenario?
BP: There’s one play I have in my mind that I dream about at least every week, if not every day. It’s me getting down the field with my blazing speed [laughs] and watching a teammate of mine get a jarring hit on the returner that knocks the ball out, and I pick it up and scoot 20 or 30 yards into the endzone for a touchdown. That’s, to me, my dream play, something I dream about a lot because it could happen.
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