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Open Locker Room: Bortles thinking about now

Posted Aug 26, 2014

Entering 2014 preseason finale, Jaguars rookie backup QB Blake Bortles remains focused on footwork, fundamentals.


JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles can handle reality.

And if reality is that the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback is done playing real football games for a while after this week, Bortles said that’s not really something he’s considered much.

Bortles, the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback, is expected to start the season behind veteran Chad Henne. The Jaguars have consistently said the plan is to start and play Henne with no immediate plans to play Bortles in the regular season.

That means Thursday night’s preseason finale could be Bortles’ last appearance for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t really think about it like that,” Bortles said Tuesday as the Jaguars (1-2) prepared to play the Atlanta Falcons in the 2014 preseason finale at EverBank Field Thursday at 6 p.m.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Tuesday said while Thursday theoretically could be the last time Bortles plays in 2014, that’s not something the two have discussed.

“I haven’t talked to him about that,” Bradley said. “I’ve just said, ‘Hey, you continue to prepare. You’re a play away and you have to have a mindset like that. Just keep working and sitting in those meetings and taking good notes.’ We haven’t talked much about that. It’s been mostly this game.”

Instead, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft said he has remained focused where the Jaguars want him focusing – on improving as a player, and on being prepared to play when his opportunity arises.

“I think of each and every day as an opportunity to go improve,” Bortles said.

Bortles has done just that so far since joining the Jaguars, playing better in training camp than in the team’s offseason on-field work, and showing significant improvement in the Jaguars’ three 2014 preseason games.

The Jaguars have yet to announce starters or repetitions for Thursday’s game, but it’s unlikely the starters will play more than a series or two. That could mean Bortles playing late in the first quarter and for a while thereafter.

“I want to go out and continue to work, continue to get better, continue to improve on some things and finish the preseason off on a good note,” he said.

Bradley this week has mentioned several areas Bortles can improve, and especially noted that Bortles had been late on slant routes at times in the preseason. That’s a detail-oriented, footwork issue, and something Bortles said he did in college that he’s working to change.

“That’s something me and (quarterbacks coach) Frank (Scelfo) have been working a ton on – all the different chops, all the different actions,” Bortles said. “That’s one we might not have worked as much on and that brought it back to our attention.

“It was like, ‘Well, we skipped over this. We probably need to work on this, just speeding that process up, getting the ball out faster, being more ready.’”

Honing footwork and various fundamentals that long ago become muscle memory has been a focus for Bortles since the May 8 draft. As necessary as the process has been, he said it hasn’t been simple.

“I’ve had to relearn how to do things correctly – or more efficiently,” he said. “I got away with a lot in college. Now, everything’s so important. The windows are so much tighter and the players are so much faster, so you have to be more precise.”

Bortles said he has tried to retain as much as possible since joining the team, and that getting acclimated and ready for his opportunity – whenever that may come – remains a process.

“From the get-go there was a big-picture plan that they had in mind and were going to do,” Bortles said. “That was for me to come in and learn from Chad, kind of mimic and figure out things. That was made clear from Day One.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to happen in two months. It’s going to take time to get acclimated to all the different things going on. You’re going to continue to learn things as long as you’re in it.”

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