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'15 offseason kickoff: Wisniewski plans to start


JACKSONVILLE – Stefen Wisniewski's expectations are clear.

The recently-signed unrestricted free agent center won't likely be available until training camp. But he said on Tuesday that come August he expects to compete, and that he expects to play a key role.

And yes, he expects to be in the starting lineup when the regular season begins.

"My plan is to be a starter," Wisniewski said Tuesday, the first day of the Jaguars' 2015 voluntary offseason program. "I think the coaches might say they want me to compete. I have been a starter since I've been in this league and I expect to continue to be one.

"If I have to compete to get there that is fine … however that works out."

Wisniewski, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, played the past four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and started the last three seasons at center after starting 15 games at guard as a rookie. He has started 61 games in four NFL seasons.

Wisniewski, a second-round selection by Oakland in the 2011 NFL Draft, is expected to compete with center Luke Bowanko, who started 14 games as a rookie this past season. He also could get work at guard position, with Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell saying upon announcing the signing Saturday that Wisniewski provided the Jaguars "position flexibility."

"I've played both and I feel comfortable at both," Wisniewski said. "I definitely like some aspects of center. I kind of like making all of the calls and seeing everything. It is kind of fun. I have kind of always been a nerd, to be honest. In school, going back to high school and college, the intellectual side of football is what I enjoy, which is prevalent at the center position, not so much at the guard."

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Tuesday said he liked Wisniewski's overall temperament.

"First of all, I like his leadership," Bradley said. "I think his knowledge of our offense is a good thing. I think he brings flexibility."

Bradley lauded Wisniewski's ability to make calls at the line of scrimmage, something he did the past two seasons playing for then-Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, now the coordinator in Jacksonville.

"He ran the show for the offensive line last year for Oakland," Bradley said. "He made all of the calls and made all of the adjustments. I think that brings great value."

Wisniewski underwent surgery in January to repair a torn labrum. That injury occurred in a game against the San Diego Chargers November 16, but Wisniewski opted to play through the injury and delay the surgery.

"I could tell right after the game something was wrong," he said. "I got an MRI and something was torn. I went back and forth on whether I should keep playing or not with it but decided I wanted to play on it and I still thought I played at a high level with it. I didn't miss a practice, didn't miss a game and got it fixed up after the season."

Bradley said Wisniewski is expected to miss the offseason program, but should return for training camp.

"He showed up today," Bradley said. "That's a great message by him. He really wants to help the offensive line group, build that relationship with them, so he is competing within that environment, as well."

Wiesniewski said rehabilitation was "going well."

"It's like four to five month total rehab process so I am about three and a half months in," he said. "My doctor and my trainer I have been working with are fully confident I will be ready to go by training camp so that is kind of the goal."

Wisniewski reportedly also visited the New England Patriots, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans in free agency.

Wisniewski said he and the Raiders discussed a contract extension in November, and that though the offer was a good offer, he opted to decline it because of uncertainty around the Raiders' organization. The team at the time was playing under interim head coach Tony Sporano.

Former Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio was hired as head coach in January.

"There was a lot of uncertainty of who the coach was going to be in the future," Wisniewski said.  "Me and my agents said we would rather have this conversation after the season when we kind of know what's more settled. Obviously they brought in a completely new staff and their staff wanted to go in a different direction.

"That is part of the business and I was fine with that. I moved into free agency and was ready to look for a new spot."

Also on Tuesday:

*Quarterback Blake Bortles said he liked the idea of an offense with two-tight end packages featuring Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis. Thomas signed in March as an unrestricted free agent, and Lewis – a 10-year veteran – recently restructured his contract. …

*Thomas said he spoke with Lewis immediately after he signed in early March. "I told him, 'I don't know what's going to happen but I would really enjoy playing with you and I would look forward to it,'" Thomas said. "He is a veteran that has done well in this league, and I can definitely learn some things and I think we complement each other well. Two tight-end sets have proven to be successful in this league.'' …

*Bradley said the Jaguars had good attendance on the Day One of the offseason program, adding that there was "a really good vibe in the building." Bradley said the first couple of days will feature individual meetings, with offense and defense installation beginning after that. "They will meet one-on-one with their coaches and get a chance to come up with their vision and areas that they need to improve," Bradley said. "Guys that were here last year will watch tape with their coaches, getting the idea of understanding their role and what we're asking them to do, so it's a good time of the year."  …

*Bradley said while a couple of players were not in attendance, all not attending contacted the team beforehand. Bradley declined to name the players not present. …

*Bradley also said he was impressed with the offseason approach of the offensive line, nothing that third-year left tackle Luke Joeckel added about 13 or 14 pounds and that second-year guard Brandon Linder weighed in around 320 pounds. "We are really excited about these guys now," Bradley said. "It just feels like they've all got the size, they've got the weight now; they've got the strength and their mindset. I think it kind of stung them at times last year and they're coming back with a completely different mentality. I think as far as an overall group they really took this offseason and really improved. Just by the way they walked in and some of their testing results I feel like that is a group that we can see that." …

*Bradley said he and Caldwell have not seriously discussed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who reportedly is seeking a trade from Minnesota. …

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