Some players thought of quitting. Others were brought to tears. A few even stayed in their homes on days off for fear of public ridicule.
The Miami Dolphins' one-win debacle of a season a year ago came with scars.
"It was the worst feeling of your life," offensive tackle Vernon Carey said.
Players from the 2007 Dolphins will never forget the torment of being a national punchline. Or the shame of being the worst team in franchise history _ and nearly the NFL's worst ever. It was almost too much to tolerate, even for tough 300-pound (135-kilogram) linemen.
For most of the holdovers from that team, it has made Miami's remarkable turnaround this season only more gratifying. The Dolphins, who turned their record from 1-15 last year to 11-5, have matched the 1999 Indianapolis Colts for the greatest one-year improvement in history, capturing the AFC East title and earning a home playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday.
But the memory of being the league's biggest loser is still fresh.
"To be 1-15, it certainly makes you appreciate it where we are now so much more," defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday said. "There was nothing like it. Guys talked about questioning themselves, 'Do you still have it? Can you still play this game at a high enough level? Is it time to shut it down?'"
Many almost did.
Before joining the Dolphins in 2006, cornerback Andre Goodman played four seasons in Detroit, which went 19-45 during that span. He watched coach Nick Saban quit on Miami to be the University of Alabama coach. Then Cam Cameron was fired after the embarrassing 1-15 season, and stars Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas were traded.
Goodman started to believe maybe players like himself were the problem.
"A year ago, honestly, you start questioning why you play," Goodman said. "I think a lot of guys in the locker room _ I think we got to Week 8, you start counting down like, 'Man, you still got eight more to go.' You go out there on Sundays, and I don't think the mentality was, 'Let's go out here and win games.' You're kind of just trying to get through the day."
Rookie coach Tony Sparano has heard the horror stories.
When he came to the Dolphins, he listened to players' pleas. They wanted more accountability, more discipline and a staff they could respect. Sparano went back to the fundamentals, forcing players to get the little things right.
He certainly didn't want to go through such shame.
"You hear guys like Vonnie Holliday say ... 'It was hard to go out,' or whatever it was, 'hard to come out of the house,'" Sparano said. "It's nice for those guys right now to be able to feel good about themselves."
Only an overtime win against Baltimore in Miami's 14th game prevented the Dolphins from becoming the NFL's first 0-16 team, a fate Detroit couldn't avoid this season.
Sweeping changes followed.
Renowned coach Bill Parcells was hired as executive vice president of football operations, shaking up the front office and overseeing the biggest roster overhaul in decades. The result: Miami's first division title since 2000.
"It's real big," second-year receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said. "Just look at the 1-15 season. One-and-fifteen makes you hungry."
The makeover has resulted in fewer penalties, turnovers and blown coverages. Team morale is high again. And the proud franchise, which made a habit of going to the playoffs for decades, has regained respect.
The 1-15 Dolphins are a thing of the past. Though even now, the label is not something players can shed.
"It was something you just wanted to get rid of," Carey said. "It makes you think twice about what you're doing. Like, 'Is this really worth it?' It just took everything out of you.
"And to come back this year and do what we're doing now, it recharges you, and it makes you cry because you know where you came from."