JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kyle Williams isn't the only player who will make his playoff debut after a long NFL career of suffering without.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny also will see his first postseason action Sunday at Everbank Field.
"That's what we do it for," Posluszny said, "just for a chance to go for a championship."
Buffalo Bills fans quickly fell in love with Posluszny after they drafted him 34th overall in 2007. High hopes were shared, but 11 years later they are finally in the playoffs and trying to eliminate each other.
The Bills went 24-40 over Posluszny's four seasons, and although he wanted to remain a Bill his entire career, General Manager Buddy Nix made it clear Posluszny wasn't part of their plans. Bills coach Chan Gailey installed a 3-4 defense suited for larger linebackers.
"I was still young and naïve enough to think you'll stay with one team your entire career," Posluszny said Thursday in the Jaguars locker room. "I just wasn't good enough to do that. Kyle Williams can fit multiple schemes, and multiple general managers could say, 'This is one of our guys.'
"I would like to have been that type of player, but I wasn't."
Posluszny has started 140 of his 145 games, including 11 this season. But his role is supplementary these days.
He was brought back to help young Jaguars linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. When the Jaguars go into their nickel defense, Smith and Jack stay on the field. Posluszny watches from the sideline.
"That is a very tight-knit group, those three," Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. "You constantly see them together, studying tape.
"Poz is the granddaddy of all of them, obviously. It's important you have good camaraderie and just the type of leadership and work ethic that Poz brings to the table every day is unmatched.
"We've been around some very good payers in our time, but what he does every day is amazing. He's like a machine."
Posluszny is in the twilight of his career and perhaps coming full circle. He was a Bills captain by his third NFL season and has been a Jaguars captain the past four years, but he's 33.
The Buffalo News sat down with Posluszny at his locker Friday afternoon to discuss his journey from Buffalo to Jacksonville and where he goes from here.
When you came into the league from Penn State with a Dick Butkus Award and two Chuck Bednarik Awards, what did you expect the NFL would be like?
PP: I thought it was going to be extremely hard to compete because you're 22 and just getting out of college and don't understand everything. The next thing you know, you're competing against grown men, and this is their profession. Going in, I knew from the start it was going to be a challenge.
How surprising was it to be a second-round draft pick in 2007?
PP: What, you think I should've been picked earlier or later?
You were considered the top college linebacker, but ...
PP: I wanted to get drafted in the first round. That was not a goal, but I wanted to prepare like that, and when I didn't get drafted in the first round, yeah, I was disappointed. I realized I wasn't one of the best. That was disappointing in the short-term.
What kind of team successes did you anticipate?
PP: When I got to Buffalo and the way the guys talked and the type of players we had, you felt like you could compete with anybody. You understood that Tom Brady and the Patriots were in the division, and that was going to be a challenge, playing them twice a year. But I guess going in each year you felt, "There's no reason we can't get in the playoffs and have a shot."
The way you got into the playoffs with Jacksonville wasn't as dramatic as Buffalo's, but how would you describe finally making it after 11 years in the NFL?
PP: I was just so happy to finally experience the postseason and have the opportunity to play football longer. Buddies that have been in the playoffs, buddies that have played in the Super Bowl, they all say the same thing. They say, "It's a different level of competition. It's a different experience." They would tell me, "You've got to get there." We didn't. So to finally know you have the opportunity is awesome.
What are your recollections of playing for Buffalo?
PP: It's an unbelievable place to play because football is such an important part of the community. To me, Western New York was a lot like Western Pennsylvania, where I grew up. People are great there. It was a fun experience to live and play in that community because you felt home.
What's your favorite Marshawn Lynch story?
PP: [Smiles, long pause] Man, that's such a good question because there's a lot. Marshawn was an unbelievable teammate. When I first got here and even a couple years after that, guys would ask me, "Hey, what was Marshawn like?" I said, "Man, if he was right here with us, you'd love him because you knew that he loved football, he was loyal, and when it was time to play he was going to show up." Marshawn was a great, great teammate. I can't think of a specific story, though. I don't have a good one off the top of my head.
So you truly can't come up with one, and it's not just a case of being unsuitable for print?
PP: No, no, no. I just can't think of one specific story. I loved playing with him.
In your last year with Buffalo, you began 0-8 ...
PP: We were 0-8 that year?
Yes, I approached you in the locker room one day for a story about whether the United Football League champions could beat the Bills. A Las Vegas oddsmaking firm made you 10.5-point favorites on a neutral field.
PP: Wow. I forgot that.
How did you cope with the losing?
PP: That's the hardest part about that game. That and being injured. The great thing is, to me, about the NFL is, OK, we're 0-8 or in a situation like that. Regardless of your record you know that you have the next week to practice and compete and have the opportunity to play and win. That's what keeps you going, knowing that, "All right. Let's get back to work. New opponent. New people to study. New tendencies to learn. Let's get out Sunday and try to win."
How does it weigh on you psychologically? Or even physically? The stress must manifest itself through loss of sleep, injury recovery ...
PP: My wife doesn't like me as much. It's hard. Everything you do throughout the entire year in order to play well and win, when you don't have that result that you want, it wears on you. Each week, you need to find a way to put it behind you because you have another opportunity you don't want to waste.
What were your hopes when you signed with Jacksonville in 2011?
PP: We were going to the playoffs for sure. And it's crazy how it all changed in a heartbeat. David Garrard was going to be our quarterback. We had Maurice Jones-Drew, Mercedes Lewis, a really good group on defense with Rashean Mathis at corner, Daryl Smith at linebacker. When I made the decision to come here and was talking to the defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, and the GM [Gene Smith] that we had all these pieces in place, and Jack Del Rio had been the coach a number of years and was steady ... Then I get here, and they cut David Garrard at the end of training camp, Coach Del Rio is released midway into the season [after going 3-8], and everything changed.
Then you found yourself in another rebuild.
PP: Right, and now we've all been able to come through that to get to where you want to be.
How would you describe what it was like, after so many dissatisfying years, to be selected for your first Pro Bowl after the 2013 season?
PP: The whole Pro Bowl experience was a lot of fun because we got to see and be around other guys you compete with year after year, some of the best in the NFL. That was awesome. I was very fortunate.
But what about the validation? After seven years, you were recognized as one of the best in your profession.
PP: [Pauses for seven seconds, smiles] Yeah, that was fun.
Four defensive Pro Bowlers, 17 points allowed per game, 55 sacks, seven defensive touchdowns ... Why is your defense so incredible?
PP: Because of the players that we have and Coach Wash's ability to bring us all together and put us in position to make plays. I feel like an enormous part of that. We have two corners that really, really cover. That, paired with a really good pass rush with Calais Campbell, and he's playing at a really high level, that helps out [defensive end Yannick Ngakoue]. When you're able to rush and cover together, you can do some special things defensively.
You played only eight of 79 snaps on opening day against Houston, five of 67 against a few weeks later at Indianapolis. Then you played all 62 defensive snaps against Seattle in Week 14. How have you handled this week-to-week situational role?
PP: The only reason why I played so much against Seattle was because Telvin Smith was out with a concussion. I knew coming into the season, because of what was told to me in the offseason, my role was going to be reduced. They tried to move me to outside linebacker in training camp and moved me back inside and said, "You're going to play Mike linebacker in base defense and come out when our nickel comes on the field." When they told me in the offseason, that was tough. You want to play every day. You want to every down. But the more important thing in that decision was, "Do I want to try to go somewhere else and play every down, or do I want to be a Jacksonville Jaguar?" To me, it was important to line up with Telvin Smith again. I wanted to be here with this group. I was willing to do whatever they wanted me to do as long as I could remain a Jacksonville Jaguar.
Is this more of a situation where you'll play as long as the Jaguars will have you, or will you play as long as any team is interested?
PP: I would like to play as long as I can. I love the game so much, and I'm nervous about life after football. They may say after this year, "Thanks for your service." I'm not sure. But I would like to play football for as long as I can.
What if that's not with Jacksonville?
PP: I don't want that to be the case, but if they no longer want me here and I still feel healthy and that I can play, yeah, I love football and want to keep playing.
What will you do after football?
PP: There's a lot of uncertainty with that. I wish I had a concrete answer. But I don't know yet. I'm still working on that. I studied finance in school, and that's the thing. My degree is over a decade old. I feel like some of the concepts we studied back then in 2005 are almost obsolete now because the financial system has changed so much. Whatever I decide to do, I'm going to have to go back to school and try to further my education in something that interests me.
Broadcasting? You're an attractive guy. You have command of the spoken word ...
PP: No way. I don't think that's for me. I'm too quiet for that. Doesn't fit my personality.
PP: [Blank stare].
So what's it like playing more of a supporting role for an elite defense compared to being the nucleus of defenses that haven't gotten it done?
PP: [Grins] I would say winning is the most important thing. So the fact that we're winning and having success on defense and won the AFC South, that takes precedence over everything. I would take that any day over hearing, "Hey, you played a great year," but we went 6-10, and I'm sitting at home. I would rather win.
How did you check your ego?
PP: It was a challenge in the beginning. I'm glad they told me in March or April that was going to be the case because when I did get on the field I understood what the situation was going to be. Once training camp came around and we got to actual ball, I understood this is where I am in my career, and I had to accept that.
You can't answer "Winning the Super Bowl" because that's too obvious. But over the course of this postseason run, what must happen for you to finish with peace of mind about 2017?
PP: I need to know that I gave everything that I had, that I played to my fullest potential, that I did everything to help out my teammates, that I did everything I could to help Telvin and Myles play at their highest level. If we can say that at the end of the day, then that would give me peace of mind.
Story topics: Buddy Nix/ Calais Campbell/ Chan Gailey/ Daryl Smith/ David Garrard/ Gene Smith/ Jack Del Rio/ Kyle Williams/ Marshawn Lynch/ Maurice Jones-Drew/ Mel Tucker/ Mercedes Lewis/ Myles Jack/ Paul Posluszny/ Rashean Mathis/ Telvin Smith/ Todd Wash/ tom brady/ Yannick Ngakoue