Having battled through what he calls one of the most trying seasons of his four-year career, Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila found himself with yet another obstacle to overcome late Friday night before putting the 2003 season to rest -- what to do with Ahman Green's dog.
Gbaja-Biamila had been dog-sitting for his friend while Green, Mike Flanagan, Bubba Franks and Marco Rivera were set to represent the Packers at the 2004 NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii, Sunday.
But with the late departure of Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice -- released from the NFC squad for disciplinary reasons -- Gbaja Biamila was the first alternate in line to join his teammates at the all-star game.
"I got the call last night from (assistant to the GM/director of football administration) Bruce Warwick at about 6 o'clock," Gbaja-Biamila said upon arriving in Honolulu Saturday. "He asked me what I was doing this weekend and I said, 'I'm going to California, I'm going back to Cali.' Bruce said, 'No you're not.' That's when he asked me if I wanted to go to the Pro Bowl."
With vacation plans already in place for the Gbaja-Biamila family to return to his home in Los Angeles, Kabeer had to make a quick decision about the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I asked my wife what we should do," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I was kind of contemplating maybe not going, so we just prayed about it. I thought about it and finally said 'yeah, let's go.' So I called my dad and told him the situation and we packed up a day early and here we are."
After making arrangements with the kennel owner to drop off Green's dog after hours, in addition to finding a temporary home for his own four-legged friend, Gbaja-Biamila began his trek to become the first Packers defensive lineman to play in the Pro Bowl since Reggie White did so in 1998.
"I was able to get that out of the way and then we had to get packed so I didn't get to bed until about 1 or 2 this morning, and then we had to wake up again at 3:30 this morning," Gbaja-Biamila said.
Despite the frantic pace of getting his family ready for the 10-hour trip from Green Bay to Hawaii, Gbaja-Biamila -- who registered double-digit sacks for the third consecutive season -- is excited about his first appearance in the Pro Bowl.
"I'm still shocked," he said. "I'm not sure it has really set in. This year was probably the most challenging year for me. I think it's probably the second-least sacks I've had with the Packers and even though I got double-digit sacks, it was just a trying year, being double-teamed, chipped and just the pressure of the contract and trying to go out there and play.
"When the Pro Bowl voting came out I had only seven sacks, and to be voted as an alternate was definitely an honor."
Despite not having had the preparation time that the others have enjoyed over the past week, Gbaja-Biamila -- who expects to receive nearly 50-percent of the snaps Sunday -- hopes to turn that into a positive.
"It's probably an advantage because I'm just going to go out there and play," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I would have liked to have gotten some type of preparation -- that's always good to have -- but I'm going to have to go through everything for the first time in the game. I'm just going to try to get into my playbook and meet with the coaches and get prepared as much as possible."
Gbaja-Biamila's addition will mark the most Packers participants in the Pro Bowl since five Green Bay players (LeRoy Butler, Mark Chmura, Antonio Freeman, Roell Preston and Reggie White) took part in the all-star contest following the 1998 season.
"Luckily, I've been working out," Gbaja-Biamila said. "Two weeks after the season I started working out again and just staying active.
"Normally I wait until about a month after the season to start working out again but I'm really just trying to get back in shape for next season. I'm focusing on trying to be in the best shape of my life. I've been working out at the house, and really, I'm kind of sore from working out so much. So at least I'm in some kind of shape for the game."
The 2004 Pro Bowl will be aired live at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.