JACKSONVILLE – Some players use the dead period in the NFL schedule – the nearly six weeks between the offseason program and the start of training camp – to get as far away from football as possible.
Some work even harder at perfecting their craft.
Jaguars third-year wide receiver
“My goal is to be the best in-shape guy in camp each year,” Shorts said via phone in Minneapolis Wednesday evening following a route-running workout. “I think I’ve done that last year, and I’m trying to do that again this year.
“I think this is going to be a fast-paced offense, and we need to be in shape.”
For Shorts, it is his second straight year making the two-week trip. After traveling to Minneapolis alone last offseason, he persuaded Jaguars quarterbacks
“The days they (Gabbert and Henne) were here, it was excellent,” Shorts said. “We got some really good work in and our timing is getting a whole lot better. They trust me, I trust them. We’re looking good. We look like something that could be special down the line.”
The quarterbacks worked out on the field with Brown, Shipley and Shorts for three full days before departing July 10.
“We were able to communicate with signals, running through our stuff,” Shorts said. “We were going through the route tree, working on our timing and chemistry.”
Shorts said he had never had dead period voluntary workouts with a quarterback before last week.
“I normally have nobody to throw with,” he said. “It would be like a college guy or my uncle would throw, or my little brother would throw to me or something.
“It’s exciting to see, and it’s good to grind with people that you’re going to grind with all year.”
Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan connected Fitzgerald and Shorts during the offseason prior to the 2012 season, Sullivan’s first with the Jaguars. Sullivan did not coach in 2011 and spent that time working with Fitzgerald prior to joining the Jaguars staff in 2012.
Sullivan is not in attendance or contact during the camp, as coaches are not allowed to work with players during the dead period.
“People call it a camp, but it’s a place where people come and work out,” Shorts said. “He’s (Fitzgerald) got college guys and high school guys working out, too. He doesn’t care (who comes). He’s just that type of guy.”
Shorts arrived in Minneapolis July 7 and is scheduled to depart July 19. The daily schedule is demanding, beginning at 8:30 a.m. each day.
“First part of workouts, we’re warming up, and then it’s a speed workout first,” Shorts said. “Monday we pushed sleds with a 45 (pound) plate, lunges and sprints. After that we do the four quarters, which are seven sprints each quarter. We’ll start on the goal line, he’ll yell out a yardage and we’ll sprint that yardage and walk back. It’s seven sprints, whatever yardage he says we have to run. It’s seven sprints during each quarter, so we have 28 sprints. After that we get about a 10-minute break.”
The receivers then start running routes with quarterbacks. The Jaguars receivers and quarterbacks worked on one end of the Golden Gophers’ practice field with the Cardinals players on the other end.
“The biggest thing is running routes when you’re tired, the third or fourth quarter (of a game) when you run routes, the no-huddle when you run routes. We run the route, come right back, run another route, come right back, run another route.”
After an hour of route running, Shorts said the workouts end with a full upper- and lower-body lift session in the University of Minnesota weight room.
Following a meal, he moves to the training room for recovery.
“Recovery includes protein and NormaTec boots for 20 minutes, which are better (for the legs) than the cold tub. I get massage twice a week and acupuncture on Fridays.”
Shorts takes Wednesdays off from sprinting and lifting, but still runs routes for over two hours with different quarterbacks in attendance.
Each year, Fitzgerald brings in a special guest or two to help “coach” the camp. This year, newly-elected Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter is in attendance.
“He’s here working, pushing you, driving you, talking bad about you,” Shorts said. “He’s a hell of a coach. I’m surprised he’s not in the coaching business.”
Carter played 16 NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Carter was elected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February.
“When it comes to route running, he knows what he’s talking about,” Shorts said. “I’m all ears every time he’s talking to anybody.
Shorts said that the knowledge he receives each year in Minnesota is invaluable to his growth as a leader both on and off the field.
“I’m here to learn from the best. I’m here with a future Hall of Famer in Fitzgerald, just watching him and learning from him every single day, and to learn from Cris Carter while he’s here. Just learning from them to be the best I can be to help the Jaguars.
“I’m only a third-year guy, but as an older guy in our (wide receivers) room I need to set the tone. Just watching Larry (Fitzgerald) lead his receivers and how he goes about his business, he’s professional about everything. He does what pros are supposed to do. Me being a younger guy, I’m looking at him and I’m learning. I think there’s a lot of stuff that people don’t see. Me, I never had an older veteran as established as Fitzgerald to look up to.”
Workout friends now, Fitzgerald and Shorts will be enemies again come November 17 when the Jaguars host the Arizona Cardinals at EverBank Field.
“They’re always talking junk that they’re going to tell (Cardinals cornerback) Patrick Peterson how I’m running routes,” Shorts said with a laugh. “It’s pretty funny. It’s going to be a good time when they get down here for some trash talking, so I’m looking forward to it.”
As for who scores the most touchdowns that day?
“We’re going to find out, you better believe,” Shorts said.