But while that’s a good thing, and while the Jaguars’ left tackle has progressed and used the last four months productively, it doesn’t make the waiting any easier.
This not-playing-football stuff, after all, just ain’t Joeckel’s thing.
“I’m already feeling ready to get back into a season – I’m definitely ready to get back into it,” Joeckel said Tuesday after a morning workout at EverBank Field.
Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft from Texas A&M, works out at EverBank Field pretty much daily, continuing the rehabilitation process to return from a broken right ankle that ended his rookie season after four games and a quarter.
He’s progressing well, he said Tuesday, and while there’s no specific return date, he said he expects to participate in organized team activities and absolutely be ready by the time training camp begins.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m coming back strong. Sitting around for 12 weeks and not being able to block – that was my offseason, so now I’m trying to get back training and trying to get ready for OTAs.”
Joeckel, who sustained his injury in a Week 5 loss at St. Louis, spent the rest of the season rehabilitating. He had his walking boot removed the day after the regular season, and began running on gravity equipment two weeks ago. He expects to be able to run in a full weight-bearing capacity soon.
“We’ve been progressing, and taking a higher percentage of my body weight,” Joeckel said. “We’re not rushed, and we’re able to do it the right way rather than trying to rush back into anything.”
That’s a positive of his injury – that the timing has allowed him to progress in such a way to return at full strength. But Joeckel said Tuesday his competitive side has a tough time seeing his rookie season in a positive light.
“I guess my career couldn’t have started off any worse,” said Joeckel, whose last previous injury was to his left ankle as a sophomore at Arlington (Texas) High School and who started all 39 games at Texas A&M. “You go into it with a ton of excitement and nervousness. No one ever wants their season ended short by an injury, especially your rookie year. This might be the worst it can get. Now, I’ve just got to get better. It’s only going to get better from here.”
Joeckel said he spent the weekend watching the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and said he has stayed in contact with friends and former teammates such as left tackle Jake Matthews, quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans.
“They all did a great job,” Joeckel said. “It’s crazy not having to go through that process. It’s nice because I can just work out to be a better football player instead of doing the training for the 40-yard dash and all of that kind of stuff.”
As he does that work, he does so looking forward to not only his first full NFL season, but his first full offseason – and his first extended time working at his natural position, left tackle.
Joeckel, who played left tackle exclusively at Texas A&M, worked at right tackle through last offseason and training camp while veteran Eugene Monroe remained on the left side. Joeckel then spent the first four games there, moving to the left side when the Jaguars traded Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens on October 2.
“It was night and day,” Joeckel said. “Just getting back to that left tackle spot, that’s what I’ve played for five or six years straight. I tried to get as comfortable as I could at right tackle, but going against the talent I was going against in the first few games at that position was tough.
“But getting back on that side, my set felt so much cleaner. I felt quicker.”
Joeckel started against the St. Louis Rams in Week 5, and Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell has said since the end of the season Joeckel played well during that game while playing Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, one of the league’s premier pass rushers. But near the end of the first quarter, on the 15th offensive play, Joeckel sustained the injury that ended his season.
“It was a serious tease, pretty much,” Joeckel said with a laugh. “I went from so high to so low. It was way too short, so I’m not sure about anything, but I definitely gained a little confidence.”
His goal now: keep gaining that confidence. While Jaguars players under the rules of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement can’t meet or talk football with coaches until April 21, Joeckel said he and other offensive linemen have met to watch film. He also has been using his rehabilitation time to gain strength – all with the objective of reliving as little of the rookie experience as possible.
“I sure hope not,” he said. “I don’t ever want to feel like that again – the lostness and not knowing what was going on. I’ll take the experience of it; even though it was less than five games it was important. But I don’t want to take that rookie mindset. I want to be a little more vocal.
“Playing a full season would have helped, but I’ll try to take as much from those five games as I can. I’m pretty confident going in.”