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Rookie minicamp: Robinson adjusts to new role

Posted May 4, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Denard Robinson: "It’s a dream come true, so it’s time to live it out"

JACKSONVILLE – His storyline is different now. Really different.

Denard Robinson isn’t a starter, and he’s no longer the main guy. He’s in the NFL now, and that means figuring out a new role – and having to earn one – for the first time in a long time.

And to Robinson, all that earning? The unknown? That’s OK.

“It’s a dream come true, so it’s time to live it out,” Robinson said following a rainy first practice at Jaguars 2013 rookie minicamp Friday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields outside EverBank Field.

“It’s a little different, but it’s football. For eight years (high school and college), you know what’s going on and now you have to adjust to something different, get used to new people around you and new coaches, but you have to adjust to it.

“I’m good at working with people, so I love doing it.”

Robinson, the Jaguars’ fifth-round selection in this past weekend’s 2013 NFL Draft, spent the last four seasons as the focal point of one of the nation’s most popular, high-profile football programs. A quarterback at the University of Michigan, Robinson was a Heisman Trophy candidate and a weekly “SportsCenter” staple.

He may be that yet again. The Jaguars certainly hope that’s the case.

But he’s not yet, and entering this weekend’s three-day minicamp he is far from his collegiate status. Yes, he will be perhaps the most high-profile name in camp, but his reality is that he is a rookie in a new league in a new town at a new level with a new team learning a new position.

That’s a lot of “news.”

“I just want to be an offensive weapon,” Robinson said. “Whatever role they want to put me in, doing special teams, whatever it takes.”

Robinson (6-feet-0, 197 pounds), who played at Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School, started 35 games at quarterback for the Wolverines, becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a season.

It was as a runner that he made his biggest impact, rushing for more yards (4,495) than any quarterback in NCAA history. During the pre-draft process – the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine – Robinson worked as a wide receiver, and there was concern at times over his naturalness as a pass receiver, but the Jaguars drafted him as a running back.

That’s where he’s lining up in minicamp, and along with kick returner, that’s where the team projects his biggest impact. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley have mentioned the possibility that Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch could use his various skill sets either as a wide receiver or a wildcat option at quarterback.

Robinson lined up at both running back and wide receiver Friday.

“One of our philosophies on offense is trying to get (the football) in playmakers’ hands,” Bradley said. “We’ve taken that approach to the guys that are in house right now and we’ve taken the same approach with the guys here. That’s why you saw him play some multiple positions just to see what he can do, what he can take on and give him a little bit of a flavor.”

On Friday, Robinson showed evidence of that speed and running ability on several occasions, at least twice taking handoffs and slicing through the defense for what would have been long gains.

Robinson said Jaguars running backs coach Terry Richardson is emphasizing carrying the ball high, making one cut and getting up the field.

“That’s what I’m focused on,” Robinson said. “I’m just taking everything in and trying to learn.”

Robinson will miss the rest of the weekend’s minicamp to attend commencement ceremonies at Michigan. He will be the first person in his immediate family to graduate from a four-year college. He said he has at least 35 family members attending the event in Ann Arbor.

“It’s special to me,” he said. “That’s something I wanted to show my nieces and nephews, that you could graduate and take this way out. Of course I want to be here with my teammates and with my coaches and try to progress, but this is something that’s important to me and my family.”

Also around the Jaguars:

*Luke Joeckel said while he wasn’t “totally comfortable” on the right side of the offensive line, his first NFL practice Friday went better than he anticipated. “It’s just playing football,” Joeckel said of switching from left tackle – where he played at Texas A&M – to right tackle. “It was different. My first step wasn’t as quick. It will be a work in progress, but I felt pretty good about today. I can’t rush it. It will take a while to feel totally comfortable, but I have a little time before Week 1 and the first preseason game.” Bradley said he liked what he saw Friday from Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in last weekend’s draft. “When he gets on the field, you saw him kind of switch into a different mode,” Bradley said. “It’s extremely, extremely important to him. He’s right on track. He just needs to get more and more reps. He’ll get it.”

*There were several fans at the open practice wearing Michigan gear, evidence of Robinson’s popularity among the Wolverines’ national fan base. “They love football, and I appreciate them coming out today,” Robinson said.

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