JACKSONVILLE – Meet the Jaguars' new locker room – much, much different from the old.
It's still state-of-the-art with a lot of amenities and other cool, modern stuff. But when players reported on Monday for the 2017 offseason program, the new stood out quickly.
"The locker room's a lot different," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. "We're not next to D-linemen, and O-linemen aren't next to O-linemen. I think it's good for everybody to intertwine and get to know each other."
Indeed, gone is the old system of positioning Jaguars players' lockers by position groups. In its place was a plan in which lockers were intermixed. Offense next to defense. Linebacker next to defensive end. Wide receivers next to defensive linemen.
"They strategically put it together with leaders in all four corners and in between," Jackson said. "It should work well."
Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., entering his third NFL season, is next to 11-year veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny. And linebacker Telvin Smith is next to …
Kicker Jason Myers.
"We always talk about them being the most non-athletic guys," Smith said with a laugh, "but I've got a respect for Jason. It's great that I'm sitting next to him, a guy who in one play can change a lot in a game, so we're going to see how that goes."
Players said Head Coach Doug Marrone said the move was about building camaraderie and allowing veterans to influence younger players.
"Coach Marrone made a great point," Posluszny said. "He said we used to sit in position groups. He said, 'You're in position meetings all day. You have individual together.' Let's have an opportunity to put you next to different people you wouldn't necessarily be around and learn your teammates better. Overall, we'll grow as a team."
Asked if he thought putting Fowler next to him was intentional, Posluszny smiled.
"Yeah, I think Dante will have a very positive impact on me," he said. "I think we will work great together."
One other notable change: Gone is the ping-pong table that had been present in the middle of the Jaguars' locker room in season and out in recent seasons.
"I didn't play ping-pong as much, so it doesn't matter to me, but some of my teammates are really good ping-pong players, so maybe for them I feel sorry," Smith said. "But if it's a distraction, get it out of here."
Also around the Jaguars:
*Smith, entering the final season of his rookie contract, addressed the issue Tuesday in a manner he hopes will prevent it from being a distraction. "I'm going to say this about the whole contract, to address the whole issue: I like to focus on football," Smith said. "When management decides what they want to do, they'll approach me and we'll go from there. As a football player, I'm just here to help this team grow and achieve the success that we can." Smith, a fifth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, said he is participating in the offseason program to "show them it's not about me and the personal goals I have going; it's about this team and us trying to build something." …
*One reason Jackson was smiling Tuesday? He likes his new number – 97 – because it's really an old number. Jackson wore 90 after signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent because 97 was worn by veteran nose tackle Roy Miller III. The Jaguars released Miller last month and announced Monday that Jackson will wear 97 this season. "It was very important," Jackson said. "It's personal for me. I've had it from Tennessee, then my rookie year [with the Denver Broncos] I had 70 and after that 97, so it's a pretty big deal for me." Jackson, who reported last offseason at 300 pounds, said he reported at 280 this offseason with plans to build up to 290. …
*Jackson said he expects subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the defensive scheme this season. Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash enters his second season in the position, but this will be the first season since 2013 that the defense hasn't been under the philosophical control of former Head Coach Gus Bradley. "I think it's going to be a lot of the same stuff, but different terminology," Jackson said. "We're definitely going to switch some stuff up as far as letting some players do more what they want to do, but at the same time play within the defense. I think it's going to change, but I think it's going to stay the same." …
*Jackson on Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin: "We need a little more discipline, and he definitely brings that." …