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Back with no complaints


You won't hear Eben Britton complaining the next two weeks.

Well, you may hear some. Britton is honest, and his honest assessment is training camp is "really hard" and that he and every other player in the Jaguars' locker room are hurting every day.

But serious complaints? You won't hear many from the right tackle, because if there is a player in Jaguars training camp who fits the profile of being happy to be here, and happy to go through whatever it takes to get ready for an NFL season, Britton is that guy.

"It's fun, man," Britton said. "It's fun to be back out there. It feels great."

Britton, following his first work in full pads in nine months, talked a while late Tuesday morning about many things – his approach to training camp, the back injury that kept him out much of last season, and just how tough camp can be. Minutes into the interview, he stopped and added unsolicited:

"This is the most fun I've had in camp."

And why not? Here's a guy who for a month last fall could barely get out of bed, and who couldn't come to the Jaguars' facility because of an infection in his back that placed him on injured reserve, ending his season early for a second consecutive season.

Now, he's not only practicing, his teammates will tell you he's acting like the old Eben Britton.

That means he's playing hard, playing loose. That means he's not favoring his back.

And it mostly means he's having fun.

"He's been away from it for a while, so to get back to it – well, I've been out three days and I'm itching to get back to it," Jaguars right guard Uche Nwaneri said. "That's part of the love-hate thing. It's great to have him back. He's been missed, not just on the field, but in the locker room."

Britton, while not one to speak in clichés, said if the story about a player being appreciative following a serious, perspective-altering injury is a cliché, then he's OK with it.

 "I'm much more appreciative," he said.

Britton, one of the best interviews in the Jaguars' locker room, often mixes seriousness with humor, and as he discussed training camp Tuesday, he did just that. Sitting in the Jaguars' renovated locker room, he talked about how although he was dealing with pain, it wasn't any sort of unusual pain – and how even though training camp stunk, it was a cool kind of stink because it stinks for everyone involved.

"I'm hurting, I'm sore," he said, then pointed to tackle Will Robinson in the adjacent locker and laughed, saying, "Will, he's hurting, too, but we're all hurting. We go through it together."

Robinson laughed, and at a locker a few feet away, Nwaneri – who starts alongside Britton at right guard – explained just why Britton is one of the key stories of Jaguars 2012 training camp.

Yes, Britton is great to have in the locker room. And yes, he is popular among teammates.

But Nwaneri said the team also absolutely needs him as a starting right tackle, a position he manned 15 games as a rookie in 2009. He played just seven games in 2010 because of a labrum injury, and last season he shifted between left guard and right tackle before a back issue that limited him early eventually placed him on injured reserve in late October.

"He brings continuity, having someone you work with," Nwaneri said. "There's something he brings overall to our group, to our team. I've always fed off of that. It's good to see him back out there. It's good to see him having fun and good to see him healthy.

"He has all those issues behind him. Now, he can focus on football."

Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey has said on several occasions early in camp that he likes what he has seen from Britton thus far. Mularkey said he likes Britton's effort and toughness.

"The only thing he has to do now is play himself back into that shape of an every-down player,' Mularkey said. "He's not far off. It's just getting back, getting some repetitions at all the things that you rely on at that position."

Here's the most important thing to know about Britton on Day 4 of 2012 Training Camp: When he's adding up his hurts and aches and pains? His back isn't where he starts.

"I don't even think about the back," he said. "It's how does my body feel. I don't think about how my back is going to feel."

Last year, Britton said the back pretty much bothered him from the start of camp, and early on, he experienced numbness in his leg from a herniated disk. He played early in the season, but after believing for a while the issue was solved, the area developed a difficult-to-diagnose infection that eventually put him out for the season.

Britton said for a while the issue was on his mind constantly. Sometime around mid-April, he said he stopped thinking about it every day, and in the last few weeks he finds he barely thinks of it at all.

Now, he said he can do something he couldn't do last year, which is focus completely on football, on improving, on being as good as possible.

"Right now, I'm thinking, 'I want to go as hard as I can every single play,''' Britton said. "If I mess up, I mess up, but I want to go as hard and fast as I can. There were some things today, now, thinking back on the play where I didn't do something technically very well, but I had the right idea and I did it as fast as I could."

That, he said, is the only way he knows how to approach this camp and any worry that may have lingered over the back he said may have disappeared permanently on Tuesday morning.

The Jaguars on Monday wore shoulder pads for the first time in camp. That meant the first day of intense hitting, and as a player, that means going to bed that night pretty much knowing the next morning will be about pain. When Britton awoke Tuesday, he said he felt fine.

Not just the back, but everywhere.

"I felt great this morning," Britton said. "I really felt good."

And he said that's a big reason why even though he's honest enough to tell you training camp isn't exactly a pleasure, for him this year, it's pretty darned close.

"It is awesome to be back out there," he said. "I can really say it's so fun to be here."

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