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Back on his feet


Luke McCown won&39;t say he&39;s lowered his expectations, exactly.

Still, McCown – the Jaguars&39; backup quarterback entering last season – said he considers himself an NFL realist. As such, he said there are at least a couple of things he realistically realizes about the upcoming season.

One is there will be questions about his knee.

McCown said the other involves expectations – and he said the reality is that while his hopes for the season remain the same, others may not share those beliefs.

That, McCown said, is not an insignificant change.

"I understand that this year is going to be a little different for me," McCown told Wednesday. "I still expect to compete at a high level, but the consideration to be a starter won&39;t be there this year."

McCown, an eight-year veteran from Louisiana Tech, spent the 2009 season as the backup to David Garrard after being acquired in a September trade with Tampa Bay. He had a solid off-season, playing well during the preseason, then sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a Week 2 loss in San Diego.

For McCown, the timing was particularly tough.

Not only had he played well, but within weeks after his injury, Garrard sustained a concussion against the Tennessee Titans.

Had McCown been healthy, that would have been an opportunity.

Instead, he said it meant standing on the sidelines fighting tears when the player signed as his replacement, Trent Edwards, played an extensive role in a 30-3 Jaguars loss.

"It was pretty tough this year, to be in year seven and get an opportunity during the season and see it come and go," said McCown, who has seven career starts with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven NFL seasons.

"I played well and gained the confidence and respect of my coaches and teammates, and the guys in the locker room. They knew if I was called upon they could rely on me to help them win. To see an opportunity come and go right before your eyes, that was tough.

"I try not to say, &39;Man this was the hardest year I&39;ve ever had.&39; I try not to weigh them against the other years, because there are a lot of different circumstances and a lot of different things that go into those circumstances. But it was tough."

Experience, McCown said, didn&39;t make the situation easier, but he said it helped his perspective.

McCown, originally a fourth-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft by Cleveland, was traded to the Buccaneers the following year. He sustained a torn ACL in June of 2006, and spent the early part of that season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

That&39;s a quick recovery from an ACL tear, and McCown said doctors have told him he has had a similar healing process from last season&39;s injury. He said he was taking drops and throwing to receivers late in the season, and was feeling good. That progress, he said, has continued.

"If I had to suit up today and run an offense, I could do it effectively," McCown said. "I expect to pick right up where I left off . . . one of these days."

Where he will be when that occurs he said he doesn&39;t yet know. He said he hopes it will be in Jacksonville, but being a free agent, he said it may be anywhere. He also said he believed he was a top five backup quarterback entering last season.

His view hasn&39;t changed, nor has his ultimate NFL goal.

"My goal is to be a starter," McCown said. "This latest injury might have delayed that a little bit, but I&39;m going to keep working and keep getting better. . . . I try to be realistic and understand the way this game works. I&39;m not naïve enough to think that coming off an injury someone&39;s going to bring me right back in and say, &39;Hey, we want you to compete for a starting job. Not saying that won&39;t happen, but the likelihood is slim.

"I think I still have plenty of upside. I understand that coming off of injury, I&39;m going to be a two somewhere. I&39;m looking for an opportunity to run an offense, to be the guy.

"I&39;ve not really had that chance yet. I&39;m still looking for that opportunity."

While that opportunity hasn&39;t come as quickly as he might have liked, and while the league at times is slanted to provide first-round, high-profile quarterbacks far more opportunities than mid-round players, he said the reality is players have taken other routes, too.

"You realize the guys who step in and solidify themselves as long-term guys are generally first-rounders," McCown said. "You can&39;t fight against that. If you&39;re a late-round guy or a mid-round guy like I was, you have to wait your turn.

"You understand that part of it. That certainly doesn&39;t mean you can&39;t have a long, successful career as a starter. It means you have to be ready when your opportunity comes and then once it does come, don&39;t settle. You have to continue to push yourself to be better than you were.

"Your first opportunity and your second opportunity, you may not have the investment behind you so to speak, so make sure you stay in there. It&39;s all going to be about the performance."

McCown, who said he has handled disappointment through his career by learning patience "and obviously perseverance," said what he very much hasn&39;t developed is a feeling of regret, or bitterness. Not that he hadn&39;t had reason.

"But it&39;s not really my style," he said. "I look at it like I&39;m blessed beyond measure already. To say, &39;Why me?&39; I would have to go back on all the great things that have happened over the eight years in my career and say, &39;Why me?&39; As well."

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