- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The holiday season is upon us. Unless you’re a Grinch, it’s the best family time of the year. But most NFL players don’t get to spend the holidays with their families, especially the young guys. They spend it with their “other” family, the team.

I haven’t been home for the holidays going on six years now, and I’ve actually grown accustomed to it. It’s just a fact. We work during the holidays, and we work far from home. I’ve always thought of all the holidays I will be able to spend with my family once I am done playing. Until then, I deal with the fact that I won’t be home, but I do send good presents. You can ask my mom.

I wrote before about how I always have wanted to play on Thanksgiving because it is classic, and I wouldn’t mind throwing Christmas in there as well. Let’s face it, football during the holidays is entertainment for the rest of America, while most NFL players are fighting for their playoff lives.

Families watch sports together during the holidays, and teams play sports together during the holidays. When you are with your team this time of the year, you don’t have that empty feeling of not being home. Your teammates and coaches are what keep you going. It is a special time of the year, and being around your teammates makes it special. We see each other more than we see our families throughout the year, so why not during the holidays?

We even have our own tree (a real one) in the training room at Redskin Park, complete with ornaments and everything else. It has footballs under it right now, but I’m hoping some presents will show up over the next couple of days. Every rookie is supposed to bring in an ornament. I did last year, though it vanished over the offseason. I made it in first grade, tee-ball picture and all, glued onto a little plastic tree. Somehow I believe Eric Stewart, one of our trainers, had something to do with it. It remains an unsolved mystery.

Our team travels on Christmas this year. After presents, it is time to go to work. All of that holiday joy is pushed aside for three hours on Sunday and what a stage to play on. The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, the day after Christmas. It could be an epic game, something people would talk about for years.

That is what makes it different. Our guys always will remember getting on a plane on Christmas Day, and they always will remember the game the day after. I’m sure you will, too.

Well, without turning into a Hallmark card, I want to wish all of you the best this holiday season.

Ask Matt

Q: Is there more cohesiveness in the locker room this year compared to last year?

A: I believe this is a team with the true meaning of the word team. With the close wins and losses, plus the injuries, everyone has had to deal with plenty of adversity together. It has brought us closer together as a team.

Staff writer David Elfin collaborates with Redskins safety Matt Bowen on this column. It appears every Wednesday. If you have any questions for Matt, e-mail them to bowencolumn@aol.com.

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