JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley changed pace Thursday, and did so with a message.
The Jaguars' head coach changed the schedule on the third and final day of 2016 minicamp, opting for players to spend the time meeting among themselves rather than practicing.
The message was clear:
Thirty-nine days remain until 2016 Training Camp, and that time is critical.
"We really just took the opportunity to talk about things that we've accomplished [in the offseason] and where we're heading," Bradley said as he wrapped up the '16 offseason.
Bradley said the message extended a theme that had been emphasized throughout this week's three-day mandatory minicamp. The Jaguars held open-to-the-public practices on the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field Tuesday and Wednesday.
Those were the last days of on-field work for the offseason and followed three weeks of organized team activities in which the Jaguars practiced nine times. The team has been in its official offseason program since late April with 2016 Training Camp scheduled to begin in late July.
"This whole week we've talked to our team about '39 days, 39 days … what are we going to do in these 39 days?''' Bradley said. "We hit 'em up. We've had players speak. We've had coaches speak. We've had different things come up – really with the idea of, 'Let's have a really good plan so when we come back 39 days from today that we're rolling.'''
Bradley said rather than practice Thursday he asked players to meet among themselves.
"It could be 30 seconds or 20 minutes … who knows?'' Bradley said, adding, "My hopes are that they walk out of this building today with, 'All right, we have a clear idea of what these next 39 days are about' rather than, 'We just got off the field' and they're looking at how practice went. We want more of a bigger picture for them: 'We have this task in front of us; how are we going to do it?'''
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles called the day to talk about the task ahead "huge."
"It gives guys a chance to have a good team meeting, a players-only meeting," Bortles said. "So, it was a good day."
Players met with coaches after they met amongst themselves.
"It's not a day where we say, 'Surprise, no practice' and they're out of the building,'' Bradley said. "There are some things we need to accomplish and we'll take full advantage of the time."
Bradley said overall the Jaguars got what they wanted from the 2016 offseason, and said there's no question it's a faster team entering training camp.
"We feel like strength and speed shows up with our guys," he said. "We just constantly talk to our guys that we have to work, though. We can talk about ourselves and how much bigger and faster we are, but we need to work on the field more than anything."
Images from the Jaguars second day of mandatory minicamp.
Bradley reemphasized a point he has made throughout the offseason – that he likes the state of the team as it prepares for his fourth season as head coach. The Jaguars added players such as defensive tackle Malik Jackson, free safety Tashaun Gipson, running back Chris Ivory, offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum and cornerback Prince Amukamara in unrestricted free agency.
They also had one of the most well-regarded drafts in the NFL, selecting cornerback Jalen Ramsey No. 5 overall and linebacker Myles Jack in the second round.
All of the aforementioned players are expected to play significant roles. Jack joined the team this week after being unable to participate in OTAs because of NFL rules and Ramsey missed OTAs and minicamp because of a small meniscus tear.
"I didn't know how long it would take them to come together, and I like how fast I've seen them come together," Bradley said. "We still have some work to do, but with the addition of some of the free agents, the development of some of our players, the rookies we've incorporated … we talk about a race to maturity; we're seeing that."
Bradley said the team made significant strides the last four weeks.
"I really, really like the feel of this team," he said. "I really like how they're energized and their approach to it and their mindset."