Hurricane Matthew nearly forced Jaguars to Georgia, team 'grateful' to be back at EverBank

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If Hurricane Matthew's path had differed from its eventual track, the Jaguars may have found themselves practicing in Georgia this week.

The Jaguars spent the bye week recuperating from the first four games of the season and preparing for the storm.

Matthew caused heavy damage to Jacksonville Beach, St. Augustine and Flagler County, but several players said on Monday that they were able to avoid hurricane's onslaught.

For most players, the hurricane was more of an inconvenience than a threat. Several players kept their plans to go out of town, while others made last-minute moves to safer areas.

In a time where the players are supposed be enjoying their days off, many were faced with altering their bye week plans just days after returning home from London.

"It's challenging, because not only are you taken care of yourself, but your team and your family," Bradley said.

"Also, just prepare for something where we wouldn't be in our facility, so there's a lot of things going on. I think we're all grateful that it worked out to where it is now today."

The coaching staff and front office didn't take the week off as early planning for the team's Week 6 opponent - the Chicago Bears - and potential movement of the team's practice location took priority over rest and relaxation.

"We were talking about it all last week: we've got to have options ready," Bradley said. "Guys came over here and checked out our fields and everybody is feeling good that we're back in our building."

Bradley said the team discussed moving to Atlanta if the practice fields at EverBank Field suffered major damage. The move up north was avoided, as the fields were accessible as early as Monday.

Long snapper Carson Tinker has a history of dealing with natural disasters. His college girlfriend was killed during a tornado that hit Alabama in 2011. Tinker was part of the rebuilding effort in Tuscaloosa and created a charity to help those facing hardships.

The "Be A Blessing" Foundation founder prepared himself as if this hurricane could become a worst case scenario.

"Honestly, I was preparing because when everything was going down, I was like 'I've been here before,'" Tinker said. "I know how a football team can help a city that's been devastated. I was just preparing myself mentally and spiritually for that."

While the storm did severely impact several areas of Florida, the state avoided a direct hit from the hurricane.

"I'm just really grateful that it was a lot less dangerous than I thought it would be," Tinker said. "I think we're really blessed."

Tinker was among those that left the First Coast for a safer situation.

"We planned on staying and riding it out because we live in Ortega, so the thing we were worried about was that we have some old oak trees," Tinker said.

"We were worried about the river - we live a few houses away from the river. Thursday morning - we already had our bags packed just in case - it was upgraded and it was coming further west than they thought. So that was kind of our 'let's get out' and we left at about 8 a.m on Thursday morning."

Tinker and his wife, Annie, ended up calling for hotel rooms as north as Atlanta before eventually settling in with some friends in Live Oak.

Guard Tyler Shatley was in a similar situation to Tinker. While he and his wife were aware of the dangers of the impending storm, they felt like they were in an environment where they could ride it out.

However, pressure and worry from Shatley's family members and friends forced the couple to move out west.

"I was fishing on Thursday and [my wife] called me and apparently a bunch of our family had called freaking out [about the storm]," Shatley said.

"Her best friend that lives down here, her mom called - the friend was at our house and we weren't in an evacuation zone yet - and her mom was crying and freaking out. She was like "you have to get out, you have to leave, the weatherman said everyone is going to die," so my wife started freaking out. So I just thought it's not worth staying and I'm glad we [left] because otherwise we would have been without power and hardheaded because we thought we could [ride it out]."

Shatley and his wife ended up in Tampa and returned home to find it in fine shape.

His teammates were all able to arrive on time to the facility to begin the week of preparation for the Bears. The Jaguars as a team avoided disaster and it sounds like - for the most part - their homes did as well.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.


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