“How’s the groin, Jason? You gonna be one hundred percent for Sunday, son?”
Steve McNealy, the offensive coordinator, always talked to Jase like he was still in Pee-Wee football instead of a twenty-seven-year-old man with a college career and four years of pro ball under his belt. Though, in relation to the years with the NFL that Steve could claim, Jase guessed he was sort of a pup.
“I’m good to go, Coach. I’ll be tearin’ it up next week.”
Steve gave him a pat on the shoulder. “That’s good, son. Glad to hear it.”
It had been one bitch of a week: ice, physical therapy, and more ice. He was surprised his dick hadn’t sustained frostbite by now. And with the playoffs just around the corner, Jase couldn’t afford to show any signs of weakness. Especially when Malcolm Willis, second-round draft pick and hotshot prospect out of Stanford was waiting in the wings to take his place on the field.
He had a hard enough time maintaining his position on the team without the added pressure, thank you very much.
Tonight’s party was a kickoff for the post-season. One of many get-togethers aimed at boosting morale and ensuring that they’d be an even more cohesive team in the playoffs. Truth be told, Jase didn’t see these functions as anything more than an excuse to get shitfaced and blow off some steam away from the prying eyes of the press. And from the looks of some of the women parading around, someone had dug deep to provide more than alcohol for tonight’s entertainment.
“Hey, man. ’Sup? You feelin’ all right?”
If one more person asked him how the fuck he was feeling, he was going to go off. “Yup. Right as rain.” Jase turned toward Carson Rader, the starting quarterback and gave him a nudge with his shoulder. “You’re not getting rid of me yet, dude.”
“Nah, man, you got it wrong. I’d throw a first-class bitch fit if McNealy put anyone else on my line. Especially that little shit, Willis. His ego’s still too big to be on my field.”
“That’s because there’s no room,” Jase said with a laugh. “Your ego’s already too big for the field.”
“Truth.” Carson flashed him the million-dollar grin that had earned him the title of Prince Charming and grabbed a glass of champagne from a tray as the waitress walked by. “I’m not about sharing the spotlight.”
It was spoken in good humor, but as the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, Carson Rader knew his worth and wasn’t afraid to own his ego. Thanks to him, the Cowboys might be getting a bid to the Super Bowl this year. Jase wanted that ring so damned badly he could practically taste the gold on the tip of his tongue and he’d ride the wave of Carson’s ego all the way to the playoffs. “You can have all the spotlight you want, buddy.”
Carson wasn’t the only guy in the league with a nickname. Being known as Billion Dollar Blackwell wasn’t exactly an honor and it sure as shit didn’t have anything to do with Jase’s paycheck or his talent. Rather, he’d earned the nickname after an ESPN anchor commented that the Cowboys had drafted him not because of his talent, but because he had the money to buy a spot on the team. It hadn’t helped that his brother Ryder owned one of the most expensive boxes in Cowboys Stadium.
Jase was firmly of the belief that money didn’t solve everything. In his case, his family’s money had done him more harm than good. His reputation, his value as a player had taken a hit and it meant that he had to work three times harder than the hardest-working player just to prove himself. Those were the breaks though, and if he’d let that sort of shit get under his skin, he would have quit his freshman year of college.
A companionable silence settled, each of them taking in the sights. Carson didn’t make eye contact, just sipped from his glass. “But really, Jase. How are you feeling?”
He never could get anything over on Carson. Jase stretched his neck from side to side in an effort to banish some of the tension pulling his shoulders tight. “I’m feeling like if I don’t get my shit together, I’m going to be riding the bench for the duration. I’m sore, my game is shit, and I’m stressed the hell out.” He gave a rueful laugh. “That about cover it for you?”