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'15 offseason: Fowler officially out for season


JACKSONVILLE – Dante Fowler Jr.'s rookie season is over long before it began.

The Jaguars made that official around noon Saturday, with Head Coach Gus Bradley confirming that the torn anterior cruciate ligament Fowler sustained in his left knee Friday will keep the No. 3 selection in the 2015 NFL Draft out his entire rookie season.

The injury occurred about midway through Fowler's first minicamp practice.

"A lot of unfortunate things happen, but like (Jaguars Head) Coach Gus (Bradley) says, 'There are going to be challenges,''' Fowler, a defensive end and Leo pass rusher, said shortly after noon Saturday. "We're going to get over it and we're going to work really hard. We're going to grind through it like we grind through it with anything. We're going to be able to get through it."

Bradley confirmed that the injury was a torn ACL while confirming the injury would be season-ending. Neither Bradley nor Fowler knew when surgery would be scheduled.

"He's going to be in the pre-rehab process right now," Bradley said shortly before the team's second 2015 minicamp practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields Saturday.

Bradley said while the Jaguars as a team would move forward he also said Saturday was not a day for downplaying Fowler's situation.

"Anytime we have an injury, like when (Jaguars middle linebacker) Poz (Paul Posluszny) or (defensive tackle) Sen'Derrick (Marks) went down (last season), I think it's important that we don't downplay it or just move on," Bradley said. "It's a tough deal for him to go through. He's 20 years old, but I'm very optimistic after having a chance to meet with him.

"I see why we drafted him when we did. His spirit, his mindset going in – I find it hard to be matched. My concern was to know how he's going to handle it. Once I had a chance to visit with him and how he's going to attack this … I'm very optimistic about Dante.

"There's no doubt in his mind he's coming back bigger and stronger and he's going to take advantage of this opportunity."

Fowler, speaking to the media on Saturday for the first time since the injury, smiled and said he was keeping his spirits high. He thanked fans and friends for their support, saying he got multiple texts and phone calls Friday afternoon and evening. Among those were new Jaguars teammates.

He also heard from former Georgia running back Todd Gurley, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft who sustained a season-ending ACL tear late last season.

"I trained with him (this offseason before the draft) in Pensacola, so I was with him when he was going through his process," he said. "I saw how hard he worked. That's somebody I'm going to lean on a lot. We're really tight and really close. He warmed me up and told me I was going to be all right, so I trust him."

Fowler was injured in a pass-rushing drill. He rushed upfield slightly to his left, and had a small amount of contact with tryout right tackle Watts Dantzler. He said he planted on his left leg and it "over-exaggerated" a little bit.

"My weight shifted one way and my foot got caught in the dirt," Fowler said. "It was a nasty feeling, but it's all good."

Fowler said he talked to Dantzler afterward.

"That's just the game of football," Fowler said. "We were out there practicing. Once you're out there practicing, you're out there. That's the game of football: you're laying your life on the line every play. You don't know what's going to happen. It was one of those unfortunate things. …

"I know what this game comes with. I know every play I'm risking myself. I put myself in this situation. I signed my name on the dotted line. I knew what I was getting myself into."

Fowler said while he sat out Pop Warner games because he was too big for his age group, he never missed a game because of injuries.

"It's gonna suck," he said, laughing. "I love the game. I love it like crazy."

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