Jets guard learning to mix work and family life

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The hardest moment Matt Slauson has ever experienced came just seconds after his son Monte was born. It came after 28 hours of labor for his wife Cami, who he met on the first day of his freshman year at the University of Nebraska.

It came after 12 weeks of childbirth classes, and after making all but one of her appointments with the obstetrician. It came after nights of being so tired from Jets practice -- and treatment for aches and bruises -- that he just wanted to sleep. But he got up and grabbed the keys to the truck, telling Cami he wasn't missing a moment of the process.

Last Thursday, the New York Jets' left guard watched as Cami was induced -- and labored to the point of exhaustion. "Guys are wusses," he said, his eyes wide.

Finally, at 7 a.m., the 315-pound father held his 7 pound, 14 ounce son in his arms. And then, almost immediately, he had to leave them both. "All I wanted to do was hold him," Slauson said. "I wanted to make sure Cami was OK, but I had to go provide for him."

Cami watched the scene, knowing what a struggle it was for her husband to say goodbye. "It has to be so hard for him," she said.

The NFL season doesn't pause for family commitments. It's part of the pact players enter into when they sign those million-dollar contracts. They trade their bodies -- and a big chunk of their personal lives -- for the glory and violence of Football Sunday. With the Jets in the playoffs, the midnight cries of a newborn will not tug at the heartstrings of a team with a season on the line.

"If you're a wife of an NFL player, you understand that," said Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who has a holiday card of his wife and daughter displayed in his locker. "The husband is going to miss some of those things, and that's just the nature of it. Sometimes we're not able to see Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Year's, that comes with the territory."

Slauson had already gotten Thursday off to be by Cami's side for Monte's birth. But the Jets have player meetings at 8 a.m. and, with the upcoming playoffs, the team can't afford to have its starting left guard miss two straight days. "He does have a job to do and wants to feed that baby," Jets coach Rex Ryan said when asked about Slauson, tongue slightly in cheek. "He needs to take care of that job."

It doesn't help that little Monte Slauson sleeps all day and is awake at night. Cami tells Matt that he should get his sleep, and she'll take care of the nights. But Matt looks forward to those moments with his son. "When he cries, it doesn't annoy me at all," he said. "It's an amazing thing. I just wish it wasn't at 2 o'clock in the morning."

Cami gets a lot of advice about how much Matt should be doing. Like a lot of new fathers, the expectation is that he should take over at night, but she said that the physical nature of Matt's job means he needs the sleep more than, say, an executive who works long hours and travels.

And the Jets' left guard has had a lot on his shoulders this season. After last year's starter, Alan Faneca, was released and went to Arizona, Slauson competed for the spot against draft pick Vlad Ducasse. The underdog Slauson won the spot -- and the butterflies that came with being the targeted link in the five-man offensive line.

Cami knows the stakes are high for her husband. She got home from the hospital just in time to watch the second half of the Jets' win over the Bills and was amazed to see how focused he was despite how drastically their lives have changed in recent days. "He's definitely pulling his weight," Cami said.

Veteran Jets quarterback Mark Brunell, who had two of his four children during the NFL season, said he and his wife had an agreement. During the season she'd stay up at night, but the minute it was over, it was his turn. "To be up all night, as much as you would like to help your wife, it's tough," Brunell said. "But it's critical, especially at this time of year, to get your rest."

It will be tough for Slauson to be away from his family this weekend, when the Jets go on the road to face the Colts in an AFC wild-card playoff game (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET). But he said he's looking forward to the full night of sleep he'll get on Friday night at the hotel. Of all the advice he's gotten from his teammates, Slauson laughs and says most guys talk about the sleep they can finally get on the road.

"A lot of guys have said that: 'Welcome to fatherhood -- those nights in the hotel are going to be awesome.'"