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Out of the Locker Room: Gabbert question unanswered

Posted Sep 4, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert on thumb: “I think it’s still a day-by-day thing.”

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars’ biggest question of opening week remains unanswered.

Blaine Gabbert, named the Jaguars’ starting quarterback during preseason, said on Wednesday before the team’s first full practice in preparation for the regular-season opener that he is confident in how his injured thumb is healing, and that he’s making progress.

But will he be ready for Sunday?

That, he said he can’t yet say.

“I think it’s still a day-by-day thing,” Gabbert said Wednesday as the Jaguars began full preparations to play the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2013 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

Gabbert, a starter in 24 games in his first two NFL seasons – including the first 10 last season – sustained a small fracture of his right thumb in a Week 2 preseason game against the New York Jets.

Head Coach Gus Bradley named him the starter over Chad Henne two days later, but Gabbert did not play the final two preseason games. He practiced Monday, throwing during the portion of practice to the media. He has not participated in “team work” since the injury.

The Jaguars were scheduled to hold their first full practice of the week Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. No information on that practice will be available until 3:30 p.m.

“I’m going to go out there and do a little more than I did on Monday and see how it feels,” Gabbert said. “I’ll keep progressing in rehab and see how it feels.”

And how does it feel?

“Better and better each day,” Gabbert said. “That’s why it’s just kind of a funny deal. We have to stay on it, stay on top of it and manage it, but it’s going to improve day by day.”

Gabbert said the key wasn’t as much pain tolerance as simply being able to execute at a high level.

“In order to win a football game, the quarterback has to play well,” he said. “In order to do that, you need your thumb to throw the football. It’s getting better. We’ll test it today and see how we execute.”

Gabbert said he planned to take snaps during Wednesday practice.

“We’re going to see how that plays out,” he said. “I image it won’t be a problem.”

Gabbert said the team was still exploring ways to protect the thumb, but that that presented a difficulty considering the need to grip the ball.

“You need as much surface area on the ball as you can,” he said.

Teammates said they were preparing for either quarterback.

“We’re confident if it’s Blaine or Chad – either way,” wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said. “We’ve played with both of them and we’ve practiced with both of them. For me, it has been two years now. I know what to expect from either one of them and as a team, we’re confident in either one of them.”

Gabbert completed 18 of 26 passes in the preseason for 184 yards and a touchdown with an interception, with Henne completing 29 of 49 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

If Gabbert can’t play, Henne would start with recently-acquired Ricky Stanzi – a third-year veteran who did not play a regular-season game in two seasons with Kansas City – the backup.

“I’m just taking it as if I’m going to be the starter,” Henne said. “I’ll prepare that way and practice that way. Whatever decision is made, I’ll know I’ll be ready. I can’t control any of that. It’s up to the coaching staff whoever they feel comfortable with. For me, it’s preparing as much as I can and hopefully that will carry over to game day.”

Jaguars running back Jones-Drew, meanwhile, said he felt ready for the regular-season opener, and when asked how many carries he could handle Sunday, he replied:

“As many as it takes.”

Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, led the NFL in rushing in 2011 before missing the final 10 games of last season with a foot injury.

He rehabilitated the injury during the offseason, and has practiced with the team since the beginning of training camp. He played two preseason games, Weeks 2 and 3, and said Wednesday.

“Throughout camp I got my conditioning up,” Jones-Drew said. “Now, I’m just preparing for Kansas City. It’s going to be a good week.”

Jones-Drew said he could carry 25-to-30 times if necessary.

“I’ve done it before,” he said. “I’ve carried it 30 plus. I don’t think there’s a difference. Whoever’s out there is going to get a chance to make plays. It will depend on how the game’s flowing. We’ll see how it goes.”

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