The New England Patriots' loss to the New York Jets was a big deal for all sorts of reasons that have been explored at great length.
For all of the Patriots it meant disappointment. For some of them it meant time to play golf. For some of them — who might not be back next season and who have not been in the NFL long enough to have made their futures secure — it meant time to look for work elsewhere, especially since the league has been talking lockout.
"We never know what to expect from the NFL. So, I mean, we got notified. Me, I got a coaching application. I'm taking it serious," said Darnell Jenkins, a practice squad wide receiver for the Patriots who has been on the injured reserved list for a couple of months.
(UPDATE: The Patriots have announced Darnell Jenkins and six other players have signed future contracts.)
For Patriots wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, a lockout might mean the end of a football career that has barely begun. But it might also mean the beginning of a career in coaching high school football.
When I met Jenkins last week, he was getting his hair cut. The barber joked that he was trying to prepare Jenkins in case he had a job interview. Darnell Jenkins didn't laugh.
"We gotta feed our families, gotta feed our families, and some people got kids, and you gotta think of something fast, if you're not already financially stable for the rest of your life, then you gotta do something and you gotta act fast," Jenkins said.
For Jenkins, a lockout might mean the end of a football career that has barely begun. But it might also mean the beginning of a career in coaching high school football, and it might mean that the time had become right for returning to the University of Miami for one more semester, to finish his degree in sociology.
"I grew up in the poverty area of Miami, and that's the most my mom ever wanted. She didn't — playing football is one thing, but she really wanted me to go to school and be her first — I'm her first child to graduate from college, so whatever makes her happy, that's what I'm willing to do," he said.
For Patriots fans, it's too bad that the Jets figured out before Sunday's game how to cover Tom Brady's receivers so well.
For football fans in general, it will certainly be too bad if the league locks out the players in March.
But for individual players, especially the many of them who haven't played long enough to get rich, losses and even lockouts are just part of the context of their attempts to move along.
This program aired on January 19, 2011.