Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Stadium Improvements March On

As the focus for the Jaguars concentrates on their improvement on the field, the backdrop at the stadium continues to be hammering and building as workers race against the calendar to have improvements done before the season starts.

“That extra week in August because our first preseason game is on the road is a big help,” Jaguars President Mark Lamping said about the construction schedule. With all of the things they’re doing and plan to do at the stadium, Shad Khan was leaning on Lamping’s expertise getting the new Busch Field in St. Louis and the stadium in New Jersey built when he brought him to Jacksonville.

Khan’s renovation of the weight room and the locker room were just preludes to the major projects he envisioned that are now becoming reality.

“We listened to the fans,” Khan said this week. “Not just here in Jacksonville but all over the world. What do they want, how to they want to watch a game? What kind of experience to they expect? All of those things when we started this project.”

It’s clear that watching the game in Jacksonville is different than almost every other NFL city. Fans want to have different experiences throughout the day.

“If you’re going to commit seven, eight hours to coming to the stadium, you need to enjoy it,” Jaguars director of sales Chad Johnson explained. “You have numerous different things and experiences you can find at the stadium and that’s what our fans want.”

Johnson’s comments came was he was standing in the nearly-completed loggia area of the south end zone, an “add-on” experience that’s unique to Jacksonville.

“You’ll be right here, just about on the field when the players are introduced and when the game is going on. You can’t get that anywhere else.”

As they complete Phase 1 of this current project, the east and west clubs as well as the interior of the south end zone will be completely different. In fact, the two clubs are distinct from each other.

“Why not?” Khan said, standing in the east club, when asked about the difference between the two. “The west side will be more of an upscale, urban feel. This one will be younger, hipper, more beachy. We have two different, distinct clienteles that are looking for two different experiences.”

From his time in baseball with the Cardinals, Lamping sees plenty of similarities between watching that sport in St. Louis and football in Jacksonville.

“It’s a lot like what baseball fans want. The ballpark, or in this case the stadium should be a place that has a unique feel, a unique look that belongs to the city. The fans should feel a part of it represents them,” Lamping said drawing the comparisons between the two different fan bases. “We’ve connected them with their digital needs without having them sitting and staring at their smartphones and running up $160 dollars of charges during the game.”

Between the indoor and outdoor spaces, the pools, the party deck, the WiFI and the digital boards within quick view no matter where you are, Jaguars fans will be able to keep track of their “other” team or their fantasy roster constantly.

“That’s something that’s unique to our market,” Lamping said in the new, open-air of the west club. “You wouldn’t show Eagles highlights to Giants fans but here in Jacksonville we realize that while everybody wants to the Jaguars to win, most have come here from somewhere else and have another favorite team as well.”

They’re still fine tuning some of the details of Phase 1, like deciding what kind of structure the players will run through when the enter the field from the south end zone, but it’ll be ready when fans show up on August 20th to face Tampa Bay in the second preseason game of the year. After that, Phase 2 will begin on the outside of the south end of the stadium, the long-awaited amphitheater and indoor practice facility they’re calling the “flex-field.”

“That’s going to be something special,” Khan said with a smile adding that they had just finished approving the design of the project. “It’s going to be something iconic, a signature for Jacksonville that will be instantly recognizable.”

Spring, 2017 is the target date for completion of the south end zone project. It will be open for plenty of events before it’s ever used as an indoor football field.

Once that’s done, Khan has plans for the Shipyards project, probably starting a little east of the actual shipyard property with a luxury hotel, a walk-bridge to the stadium, public spaces, some retail, a spot for the USS Adams and maybe even docking space for Shad’s mega yacht “Kismet.”

As he says, “You can’t sit on the status quo. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

FSU/Boise St. To Play Here In 2019

As they continue to work toward bringing in “neutral site” college football games. JaxSports has found a willing partner in Florida State University.

FSU is scheduled to play Boise State in a home-and-home series in 2019 and 2020 but talks are progressing to bring that game to Jacksonville to open the season.

“Florida State is definitely interested in bringing games to Jacksonville,” one source with knowledge of the situation said. “They’d like to play that Boise State game here but still travel to Idaho the next season.”

As of now, FSU is scheduled to open this yer against Ole Miss in Orlando and 2017 vs. Alabama in Atlanta. They’re also in discussions to open the 2020 season in Atlanta against West Virginia.

If you’re wondering why the Seminoles would agree to these games away from Doak-Campbell Stadium, the $8 million they’ll make for opening away from Tallahassee in the next two years seems to be the draw.

Besides the money, FSU also is a national draw on television and playing in these celebrated games also helps in recruiting. A loss in one of these openers no longer eliminates teams from consideration for the National Championship and a win ups their strength of schedule against non-conference opponents. In addition, it would give the school at least an additional week to complete any renovations to the stadium that might be planned.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Air2G2 Local Company Making Good

As a concept, it seems pretty simple: All living things need air to grow. But for Glen Black, it was a brainstorm in college that led to a growing business based on that concept.

Black is the President of Air2G2 by GT Air Inject, a Jacksonville company with connections all around the world. While a college student, one of Black’s professors wondered aloud if they couldn’t get air to the roots of a grass system and if that would promote growth. Black went to work on the concept and the Air2G2 machine was born.

“Air is everything to anything that lives,” is the company trademark and Ar2G2 machine provides that where it doesn’t get to: underground.

Any expanse of grass needs to eventually given room to grow. Grass fields used for sports, football, baseball, golf, soccer and others, get compacted together where air can’t get to the root system and promote growth. The Air2G2 does just that. But putting three spikes in the ground that push compressed air in at a seven-inch depth to break up the “compaction layer” and again at 12 inches beneath the turf surface.

Traditionally “aerating” a grass surface (field, fairway, green, tee box) involves taking chunks of the turf out of the ground to let the remaining grass expand. The Air2G2 does that without disrupting the playing surface and allows teams and players to go right back to work.

Fields a the Jaguars stadium in town, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field are among the places the Air2G2 is in action. Florida Field and others in college football count on it to keep their fields going all year. Real Madrid is one of the international soccer clubs who use the Air2G2 machine to keep their field in shape.

At a cost of $38,000 it’s in the price range that most clubs can afford. Handmade here in Jacksonville, the company is working on a home model for significantly less. As far as time, besides the “instant use” component of the Air2G2, it takes a little longer than mowing the grass to put the machine into use.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars “Fact Finding” vs. Bengals

It might have been a “game week” of preparation but even as hard as they try, the players and coaches admit the third preseason game is different than the rest but still nothing like the regular season. “Fact finding” is how Head Coach Gus Bradley characterized his goal for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati. The Jaguars, like the rest of the league, will have to cut their roster to 75 players next week. Deciding who to keep and who to let go will be more difficult than in the past. This group of 90 players is the most talented under Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell, making the decisions more difficult. The decisions can play themselves out more clearly under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.

“We’ll put some guys in different positions just to see how they handle a heightened environment,” Bradley said this week. “It might be how they handle going against a one. We need to find out more information about some guys. We’re excited. I think it has been a good week, I’m glad we had this dress rehearsal.”

Much of the attention will be on the left side of the offensive line where Kelvin Beachum will start at tackle and play “15 to 25 snaps” according to Bradley. Although the coaches have praised Luke Joeckel for his play at that spot all through training camp and in the first two-preseason games, Bradley said the “fact finding” would start with Beachum and Joeckel on the left side. What has impressed the head coach is how Joeckel has taken the competition seriously and hasn’t said a word. He’s just worked at both positions and excelled in the first three weeks. No complaining.

“You would think that and I think you would say, ‘Okay we need to talk to him and help him through this,’ but I have not talked to him,” Gus explained. “He has been unbelievable. I mean, just in passing and the way he says his mindset is, I know we all appreciate that and it tells us a lot about him. You know, you wonder, but I am not surprised. We saw that mindset in the OTAs and he has carried it through, so I have not talked to him much about it at all and he has been handling it great.”

That’s not to say things have been all hearts and roses for the Jaguars during training camp. The first day in pads wasn’t much, “Not to our standard,” Bradley said at the time. The second day of practice against the Tampa Bay Bucs, “Wasn’t sharp,” according to the head coach. And even this week the “No Repeat Friday” where they concentrate on not making the same mistakes and running through multiple formations and plays without “repeat” wasn’t what he was looking for.

“Today, we did not really do a good job,” Bradley said on Friday. “It was not up to our standard. It just was not as sharp. I guess that’s what a test run is all about, to create that standard of what a No Repeat Friday is all about. It’s a good lesson.”

What’s strange about the preseason is how the coaches are looking at different players in different situations. Last week against the Bucs all they wanted to see from Julius Thomas was his run blocking. So no real “targets” and it seemed like he wasn’t even in the game. This week could be different but it all depends on the situations presented in the game.

About 40% of every NFL roster turns over each year so it won’t be surprising if there are twenty or so new names wearing the Jaguars uniform starting on September 11th. A chance to play in front of a national television audience is always motivation. So guys will shine, some won’t rise to the occasion.

“I think to see how guys respond, the heightened environment of Sunday Night Football is really good in preseason because it does give us a chance to see how these guys respond to it,” Bradley noted.

Sending young players in the game where the spotlight is on has helped Gus evaluate who can step up once the regular season starts. That’s why he likes the “big game” environment created in the preseason.

“It’s a heightened environment so now what? It’s okay to be excited about it, now acknowledge it and let’s go. So we do talk about it just so they have the understanding that you’re going to be playing and every game’s a great big game but sometimes when it’s heightened like this more, guys can get out of whack.”

After dominating early in training camp, Dante Fowler has run into some fierce competition, something the coaching staff has appreciated.

“Dante, as we all know, the physical attributes that he has,” Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash said this week. “The thing that we are challenging Dante on now is being a pro, being great in the classroom, taking it from the classroom to the field, studying more tape on his own. We’re really pressuring him right now to be a pro.”

One thing Wash hopes to see more of is the physical nature Jalen Ramsey brings to the cornerback position. Early in the game Ramsey stuck his nose in a pile to make a tackle. He says it’s how he’s always played the game. Wash took notice immediately.

“We were excited just how physical he played on that snap,” Wash noted this week. “He did not come up there and try to dodge the offensive lineman, and got himself in position to make the play. He’s not scared to put his face on people and that is something that’s important to us. We want to be known as a physical defense not only from the front seven, but our back end also.”

Game time is 8 o’clock for the nationally televised game. Channel 4 will have the pregame at 6:30 and I’ll live tweet from the game on Twitter @samkouvaris

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Time for Jimmy Smith in The Pride

There’s never been a question about Jimmy Smith’s on-field greatness. Smith is one of just three players to play more than ten seasons for the Jaguars, from 1995-2005, and still owns 11 team records 10 years after his retirement in 2006.

But how to you honor a player during his much-publicized struggle with drug addition and run-in’s with the law? Jimmy’s battles with drug abuse were well chronicled on ESPN’s “30 for 30” series among other places. He’s served jail time, has been confined to his house and convicted on drug and parole violation charges. He’s still on parole in Mississippi until March of next year.

Even his retirement in 2006 was surrounded by controversy. In a hastily called press conference, Smith said he was “tired” and it “was time” for him to retire. He denied that he might have been facing a year’s suspension for failing another drug test at the time. But walking away from a several million dollars didn’t make any sense for Smith at that point in his career. Even how the announcement was handled for one of the all-time, on-field greats didn’t seem right. Smith denial was unconvincing and tepid at best.

As fans and friends have hoped, Smith has stayed out of trouble for a few years, long enough for the Jaguars to honor him this December as a member of The Pride.

“There is no question that Jimmy Smith was one of the best players to ever wear a Jaguars uniform,” Jaguars Owner Shard Khan said. “His contributions in the early years were critical to the success the Jaguars enjoyed during that time. The fact that most of his records have stood for 10 years without being surpassed underscores what a great player he was.”

Serving on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, I’m instructed every year to only consider a player’s football accomplishments, disregarding any issues he might have outside of the game. That’s why Lawrence Taylor was elected to the Hall during a time he was consistently running afoul of the law.

But The Pride of the Jaguars is different. If only by the definition of the word “Pride.” In this case it has double meaning, denoting a collection of individuals and a spirit of those involved. It would have been tough to induct Jimmy during his troubled times.

A five-time Pro Bowl performer, Smith was a key to the Jaguars’ early success when the team earned four straight playoff appearances from 1996-99 and played in eight postseason games including two AFC Championship games. He was the Jaguars’ leading receiver seven times and was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl team five consecutive years from 1997-2001.

“We had such great fun and I have wonderful memories of my time there,” Jimmy said. I want to experience it once again with my teammates and the great Jaguars fans. This is a great honor.”

Smith joined the Jaguars as a free agent in 1995, and over the next 11 seasons he produced marks for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns that still stand today. His 171 games played and 150 games started both rank second in team history, and his 11 seasons played is tied for second all-time.

Part of Jimmy’s success was the team around him. Fellow Pride members Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor helped anchor a very potent offense during Smith’s career.

Which also begs the question “What about Keenan?” No matter where McCardell ranks statistically in Jaguars receiving history, he was a force opposite Jimmy that put pressure on defenses and gave Smith room to roam. They were even promoted together as “Thunder and Lightning” during their playing days.

Maybe they’re spacing it out, but if Jimmy’s going in, Keenan should be there with him.

Or at least next.

Then Meester.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Smith “Grateful and excited” to be in The Pride

“It’s not the end, but it’s a new beginning.”

It was with that statement that former Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith summed up his thoughts about being the latest player to be invited to join The Pride of the Jaguars. Smith’s statistics are gaudy by any measure of wide receivers in the NFL and outsized when it comes to the Jaguars record books. Smith still holds at least 11 team records a full decade after his retirement.

When the call came from Jaguars Owner Shad Khan on Saturday, Smith almost didn’t pick up the phone. It was a strange number with a 217 area code and Jimmy admitted he usually doesn’t answer numbers he doesn’t know. But he had a feeling and was glad he did.

“My heart started beating fast and I couldn’t catch my breath,” Smith explained on Tuesday. “[He said], ‘Jimmy this is Shad Khan with the Jacksonville Jaguars,’ and he began to say thanks so much for my service for the Jaguars and what I’ve done during my time there and how engaging I am to the community and how engaging I am social media and that they were extremely proud of me.”

Through his drug addiction and legal woes, Smith has had a support group of fans, family, friends, teammates and coaches. He was quick to thank them for sticking by him and credited his new-found spiritual conviction for getting him to a new place in his life.

“I’m just happy that God has allowed me to be resilient and persevere and show that you can turn your life around and still be on top.”

Smith singled out Tom Coughlin, Keenan McCardell, Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Tony Boselli and the Weavers as particular supporters who have helped.

In conversation with Taylor, a former teammate and the first to call and congratulate him, Smith said he understands the responsibility that comes with joining The Pride.

“I love him, but he was just talking to me about the importance of having your name in that stadium and the responsibilities that are going to come with it. And that’s being a good role model and being someone who can help someone else. It means a lot to me.”

“But you got to do more than that and I think being in the Pride represents what you do in the community, how you treat people, how you engage people,” Smith explained

Because of his legal woes, Jimmy knew any post-career accolades would be delayed until he got himself straightened out.

“Everybody has issues and has problems. It’s just how do you deal with those problems and how do you come out of it? I feel like the work is not over with by any means. The work’s not over. Struggling with an addiction is every day. It’s not like you got it fixed this day and gone tomorrow. So I have to live my life in recovery as a reminder of what I’ve gone through and where I am today and how I’ve persevered, and not to go back there again. That’s what I mean when the work is just beginning. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning of the second chapter of my life. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and I got a job to do. It’s up to me to go out there and be a role model for those that are in need.”

As excited as he was to have his name on the stadium (“It gives me chills) Smith was equally animated about the current crop of Jaguars and the help he can provide to the wide receiving corps.

“They have a jump on us. It’s just a matter of them being consistent, it’s a matter of taking care of their bodies, being healthy, and making sure their home life is straight. Hopefully that is something that guys like us, the alumni, can help the new guys with, consulting with them and helping them maintain their edge in order to be successful.”

Smith singled out Marqise Lee as a perfect example of somebody he can help. “I would say take a look at the guys before him. Take a look at my career, take a look at Keenan’s career. We didn’t have the immediate success, we just had to learn. It’s just like in college – that redshirt freshman year where your body is catching up. For Marqise Lee he just has to learn to get in that weight room and get on that good diet and nutrition and master his craft. It’ll come. It’ll come. It will come soon.”

And as far as the other half of the “Thunder and Lightning” duo becoming a member of The Pride? Jimmy says Keenan also deserves his own day.

“Yes. It is just a definite yes. Originally it would be cool, because I remember hearing Mark say this, that both of us would be good going in together. But if you really think about with what each one of us has done – I think I myself and Keenan also feel like this a time where we need our own individual stage. Yes, we were considered one of the best tandems in the NFL, thunder and lightning, but we are both individuals and to continue to work we both need our days in the sun. Definitely I want to see my boy Keenan get in there.”

With Smith’s induction, McCardell deserves serious consideration. Tom Coughlin is a must. Brad Meester embodied everything you’d want a pro athlete in your town to be. And Maurice Jones Drew carried the franchise through some rough times.

Notice that there are no defensive players on the wall or on the list. Perhaps Rashean Mathis might be the first. Hopefully some of the defensive players currently on the roster will fulfill their potential, and careers here in town and put their names up there in the future.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Khan On 2016 Roster: “Scary Good”

When the owner says it’s time to win, it’s time to win. And while he didn’t use those specific words today, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan clearly has high expectations for his team in 2016.

“Absolutely, I can’t wait,” Khan said when I asked him if he was excited about the start of training camp next week.

With the free agent acquisitions in the off-season, the draft falling their way and coming off last season’s breakout offensive year, the plan seems to have come into place. Patience has run thin during the building process, occasionally for Khan and certainly for the fans, but the roster looks legitimate on both sides of the ball.

“It’s scary good,” the Jaguars Owner said with a chuckle when he talked about the names on this year’s team. “Certainly the four years I’ve been here, we’re not used to the national attention. It’s good to have expectations and it’s good to have pressure.”

It’s become the vogue thing among cable network shows to take notice of the Jaguars and even pick them to win the AFC South. As if they know something everybody else doesn’t. But the team doesn’t care where they’re predicted to finish. The only prediction they care about is what their owner’s idea of success will be. “Better than 5-11, I can tell you that,” Khan said earlier this year when I asked him about raising the bar for 2016. So when he talks about “expectations” and “pressure” it’s pretty clear his mandate for 2016 is pretty simple: win.

While he’s happy with where his football team appears to be on paper at this point, Khan is also pleased that the stadium improvements are giving the Jaguars home a distinctive look and giving him a reputation as an innovator.

“This is a 20-year old facility, so how do we make it the best in the business?” Shad said as he addressed the new clubs on the east and west sides of the field. “You create something people want to be a part of. It puts the stadium and the city in the best light. We have a lot of other things going on here besides the NFL so it says a lot about the experience and a lot about the city.”

The clubs will have floor-to-ceiling windows facing the field as well as all of the latest digital technology to attempt to engage the fans from inside and entice them to come to games. While the east and west clubs were identical in the original design, the two sides of the stadium will give a very different experience in what the team is calling the “re-imagination.”

“Why not?” Shad said, standing in the East club when I asked him about the two clubs being different. “If we want to have different experiences it should be different. One is more casual, one is more formal. This is a public stadium. We want to have more use. If you’re looking for a more urban feel, more Manhattan, that would be the other one (the West club). Here it’s more of a casual, more of a beachy feel.”

Clearly the Jaguars research showed that fans don’t want to be tied down to their seats during games. Between the clubs and the end zone spaces, there’s plenty of room to roam. And Shad is trying to be on the front end of that fan experience.

“I think listening to the fans here and also listening to the fans around the world. What would be something they would aspire to because what we have here is something cutting edge.”

And as soon as the clubs are finished, construction will start on the amphitheater and the “flex field” Khan wants as a centerpiece of that part of town. While the Shipyards project goes through the EPA process that might take a while, the Jaguars owner is trying to put some “mojo” in the design, something he said was lacking in Jacksonville a couple of years ago.

“I think the South End Zone is going to be fabulous. Its Jacksonville, Florida at it’s best. Open air but yet can be closed for weather. Great design, almost something iconic that could be signature landmark for Jacksonville.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Ready To Win Says Malik Jackson

It’s been a pretty dramatic transformation in the Jaguars locker room over the last four years. As much as General Manager Dave Caldwell has been looking for talent as he builds the roster, he’s been vetting players’ personalities as well. There’s a certain type of player that can work inside a team with Head Coach Gus Bradley’s coaching style. Bradley is trying to empower the players to hold each other accountable to do their best and get the job done. All it takes is one bad apple to undermine the entire process.

Only certain kinds of players want to be a part of that and Malik Jackson noticed it right away. Jackson was one of the targeted free agents in the off-season because of his ability on the field and the presence he has in the locker room.

“Coming in that locker room when I first got here you could see that Coach Bradley wants to get guys in there who are good people, people who know how to win and guys who can bring people along to win,” Jackson said during a visit to Channel 4.

Adding players who are established NFL starters who know what it takes to win on the field and in the locker room was clearly a priority for the Jaguars in this off-season.

“Me, Chris Ivory, Gipson, Julius Thomas. Guys who know how to win and who want to win,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot of new guys who can play. Who really want to play, who really want to win and bring this program back to the top.”

Looking at his new teammates, Jackson is confident they can be a factor in every game but outlined the difference between just being a factor, and winning.

“I think there’s plenty of talent on this roster,” he said, agreeing that “coming together” to win games takes a few intangibles.

“Number one, we all have to stay healthy and two, we have to talk to each other and understand what we’re saying.”

You wouldn’t think simple communication and putting your ego aside would be a factor for players being paid millions to play the game. But Jackson said it might be the single biggest difference between winning teams and also-rans.

“A lot of people get sensitive when you try to talk to them. If I scream at you it just means I’m passionate about what this is. I’m not being mean. If I talk to you or if you talk to me I can’t be sensitive about it. You have to understand we’re one team with one goal. It means a lot to us so we have to take criticism and keep going.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Cryotherapy: The latest in “Sam’s Big Comeback”

For those of you who have followed by journey since my stem-cell surgery in November, first I want to say thank you. Somebody asks me about my knee, the procedure, the braces I wore or my rehab everyday, and I appreciate it.

Since the stem-cell procedure is so new in the US, the experts are still gathering information the rehabilitation process.

“It’s all over the map,” said Mike Ryan, the former Jaguars athletic trainer who now runs Mike Ryan Fitness in Jacksonville Beach as well as other projects and commentary for NBC Sports. “The physical therapists are coming up with ways to rehab from that procedure but there are a lot of different opinions.”

Mike’s right about that but from somebody who’s undergone the procedure, I can tell you the rehab is closer to coming back from knee surgery than anything else. The first two weeks are filled with a lack of mobility and a lot of soreness. As I mentioned in the original story the advice from my longtime friend and medical advisor Dr. Paul Shirley was “Ice and prayer.” So I did a lot of both.

As I’ve progressed through this process, I started an upward trend to feeling better with less knee pain starting at about two months and getting progressively better into month five.

“That makes sense,” Dr. Stephan Esser from SE Orthopedics said as I filled him in on my progress. “The stem cells are immature when we first line your knee with them and it takes a while for them to mature and start to replicate.”

I tried to follow Dr. Esser’s instructions on recovery and was probably an “80%” patient, probably being too aggressive on more than one occasion during the early stages of rehab. After four months, they cleared me for a step up in the intensity of my therapy and I had my good days and my bad days. I had lost some flexibility and mobility in my left ankle and my left hip in the beginning of the process so I had a lot of soreness through my hip flexors, quads and lower leg.

“No surprise,” was again the answer when I met with noted physical therapist Dr. Mark Baughman in Jacksonville Beach. Mark has his doctorate in physical therapy so when he put me through my first evaluation, he and I laughed when he said I was a “classic case of dysfunction.”

Finding the “links” to where my lack of mobility and soreness was coming from, Dr. Baughman worked from the ground up using the old phrase, “we’ll be chopping wood for a while” when he discovered the lack of flexibility I had in my left ankle and left hip. Through a series of sessions with Mark I’ve regained a lot of that but there’s still work to do. Sitting in a chair at work, in the cockpit of the airplane, the car or riding my bike promotes a shortness in just about every muscle in the front of my body so I spend a lot of time counteracting that with stretching, the Swiss ball and sometimes just laying flat on my back on the floor.

At right about the six-month mark I was experiencing some associated pain around my knee so Dr. Esser suggested I come in for some “nerve retraining.” I had no idea what that meant but found out quickly it was an aggressive form of acupuncture combined with some electric stimulation.

That’s always seemed a little bit like hocus-pocus combined with voodoo to me but I was quickly converted. Going to treatment five out of seven days, Dr. Esser worked on the muscles around my knee as well as some of the meridians flowing through my knee and gave me instant relief and results. Shortly thereafter I rode my bike in Europe for a couple of weeks, even climbing the iconic L’Alpe d’Huez with no ill effects. And if you’ve seen me, I’m not built for climbing! Stephan has suggested regular acupuncture and I’m a believer.

Recently I’ve started a cryotherapy routine looking for another nudge forward. Ice baths and cold therapy have been around for a while but this is supposed to be the next step in recovery or managing chronic, old injuries.

“We get it down to negative 302 Fahrenheit (degrees)” Beau Dominiak, the owner and trainer at Outlast Cryotherapy in Ponte Vedra told me before one of my treatments.

“It’s basically pulling all of the fluid out of your extremities, sending all of the blood back to your vital organs,” he explained of the three minute. “When you come out of there as you return to a normal state you’re sending fresh blood carrying nutrients and oxygen back to your extremities.”

Dominiak is a former pro soccer player in Scotland and uses the machine himself up to six times a week. “It’s great for chronic injuries I’ve had and sometimes I even use it before a workout as pre-hab.”

“Very positive results,” is how he described what his clients have talked about. “It’s intended to be an everyday tool, a couple times a week is probably ideal.”

I can tell you it’s had some positive effects using cryotherapy along with the other protocols in my rehab program. I can also tell you the first two minutes you’re chilly but it’s OK. The last minute, you want to get out.

“It’s that fight or flight response that’s what you’re looking for,” Dominiak said with a laugh. “It’s supposed to have your body want to protect itself. It’s promoting both body health and brain health.”

I’ll keep you posted on the results!