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That moment when it’s serious and the stakes are high and brothers Reid and Blake Ferguson lay aside blood and bond for three hours while their two football teams battle will come on Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills in a game that will help determine, even at this early stage of the NFL season, who is leading the AFC East.
It’s an important game. But it cannot be a particularly fun experience for a family with players on opposite sidelines during those three hours of game time.
Because this will be brother versus brother. Professional football demanded it of Jason and Devin McCourty last week, and this week requires it of the Fergusons.
And the requirement means forgetting the best interests of someone you love.
“I think for me, once we go out for warmups and once kickoff rolls around, I think my mind goes into game mode,” Reid, the Bills long snapper, said Thursday.
“I’ll watch his punt snaps and root for good snaps, but at the end of the day it’s all about wins and losses. And ultimately I’m rooting and playing for my team to win.
“I think it’s easy for me to turn that switch on and off when we play each other. Part of that is how to be a professional, learning to deal with those mental exercises that come along where you can name on a couple of handfuls the brothers in the league that maybe played each other and dealt with this situation.
“It’s a unique situation, and you have to figure it out as it goes. It’s probably not as hard to flip that switch as people may think because, at the end of the day, it’s wins and losses.”
This should feel weird. Because even as Reid and Blake will be vying for the same victory only one can claim, they love each other. Neither is too proud or too whatever to deny it.
“There were a couple of times growing up, where me being the younger brother, there were guys on the playground that were going back and forth with me or whatever,” Blake, the Dolphins long snapper was recalling Thursday. “And [Reid] stood up for me. He always had my back. Always had my best interest in mind. And he still does to this day.
“Reid and I obviously have a very close relationship. That’s no secret, just look at social media. He and I are both a very open book. He’s always had my back, I’ll always have his. And that’s just the way it is for us.”
Reid, now 27, fondly recalls when he was heading into his final season at Louisiana State University and Blake, now 23, was a freshman. That shared time on campus lasted only six months or so.
But Reid thought those were “awesome” days.
“When you’re at a certain age and your little brother is pestering you when you’re trying to do something or trying to hang out with other friends, and you want to hang out with the other 13-year-olds not a 10-year-old, you don’t understand what brotherly love is,” Reid said.
“I think when it kind of popped into my mind of what that feeling is about is when I went off to college and we missed each other. You miss being around each other so much and hanging out and going out to eat together in high school and long-snapping together and working out together.
“When I went off to LSU, I think that separation made me realize how much I appreciated us being in the same place, even though I didn’t realize it before.”
So, yes, these two brothers are close.
But the amazing thing is their tight relationship might have prepared them for moments like Sunday in which they’ll be competing against one another. Because their childhood was peppered with bouts against one another.
“It was tough love growing up just because we’re brothers and we’re so close in age,” Reid said. “We grew just kind of fighting with each other. That’s what brothers do. But you love each other.”
Love each other, yes, but sometimes hurt each other, too.
“One of our fights growing up he was laying on the couch and I was being the little brother that I am and decided to go pick on Reid a little bit,” Blake said. “I ended up hurting him, which I didn’t mean to do.
“It was probably the one time that I ever made him cry and that’s the thing in my head that I’ll always get under his skin about. But he and I went back and forth our fair share.
“I was probably 7 or 8. I was young, but old enough to know better. Mom wasn’t too happy about that one.”
Yeah, um, what Blake doesn’t mention is that a remote may or may not have been used as a weapon in the small fracas that ultimately left Reid in tears.
“He got me with the remote and that was the only time he ever made me cry,” Reid shares. “That besides when he got drafted. I think I teared up a little bit then, too.”
Because there would be competition every year?
“No,” Reid said. “I teared up because I was so proud of him and happy to see all his hard work come to fruition.”
Sunday will not be the first time the Ferguson brothers compete against each other. The Bills and Dolphins played twice last season. And there were also those many video games decided in their parents’ basement years ago.
“It was super competitive, but he wouldn’t beat me a lot,” Reid said. “So when he did beat me or if it was close at the end of the game, he’d shut the PlayStation off and run upstairs screaming that he won, that he beat me.
“It was just to say he got one over on me. You know, just being a petty little brother. That was the name of the game growing up.”
The revenge may have come last year when the Bills swept the Dolphins. Was Reid insufferable after those two wins, including a 56-28 blowout in the season finale?
“He’s insufferable, no matter what the outcome of the game is,” Blake joked. “No, he and I have friendly banter, no matter what. Whether it’s a game between us two, Red Sox/Yankees, whatever it is, there’s always a little bit of brotherly love going on there. We enjoy the banter but we’re focused on this year, we’re focused on this game, and we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Said Reid: “I don’t know if I’ve been insufferable, but I definitely rubbed it in his face when we won. With respect to him and him being my brother, their season was over. I know a couple of years ago when we missed the playoffs, I know what that felt like.
“So I tried to be as respectful as I could while still giving him a hard time after the game. You obviously want to enjoy and celebrate the wins because they’re hard to come by.”
As Blake or Reid will both understand by late Sunday afternoon.