JACKSONVILLE – The emotion has passed, and reality is near.
For Barry Church, that reality means the upcoming opening of the Jaguars' offseason conditioning program – and the accompanying reality that the time for talk is over.
Church, a strong safety who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys earlier this month, joined J.P. Shadrick and John Oehser on Jaguars.com LIVE Wednesday. Among the topics: the Jaguars' 2017 free-agent class and the hopes the class has brought to the franchise.
Church on Wednesday said that hope is real – and the work that lies ahead is, too.
"I'm ready for football now," said Church, who was openly emotional upon signing with the Jaguars. "You saw me at my emotional peak there at the Jaguars' facility. Now, it's ready to go to work.
"I feel like I haven't played football in a decade and I'm itching at the bone to get down there and get ready to get after it with these guys."
The Jaguars' offseason program is scheduled to begin in April, with the first three weeks dedicated mostly to conditioning. The on-field portion of the offseason – organized team activities and mini-camp – will begin in May.
Church, who signed as a high-profile free agent along with defensive end Calais Campbell of Arizona and cornerback A.J. Bouye of Houston, said he has been in contact with those players. He also said he has spoken with free safety Tashaun Gipson and several other Jaguars players.
"I feel unbelievably comfortable now," Church said. "I got to reach out to a couple of those guys … Gipson, Calais Campbell and Bouye – I got to talk to those guys, and [defensive tackle] Malik Jackson as well. I'm getting comfortable with those guys, and that's where it all starts.
"It all starts with earning the respect and the trust of your teammates. Football is a team sport and you need your teammates to succeed, so without that, you're not going to do anything at all.
"I'm just super-excited about the opportunity to be a part of something unbelievable."
Church, like Campbell and offensive tackle Branden Albert – the latter of whom was acquired in a trade with the Miami – was brought in at least in part to provide experienced, veteran, winning leadership to a relatively young roster.
Church said he understands that's part of his responsibility, and said it's a role he welcomes.
"I'm not a big rah-rah type of guy," Church said, adding that when he was a four-time defensive captain in Dallas, "I just told he younger guys behind me, 'Just watch how I do things and maybe you'll be able to stay here for a while.' I was able to do that with a lot of younger guys. I feel like I'm a pretty good motivator and leader of men. Hopefully, I can transition that to the Jacksonville Jaguars."
The Jaguars last season ranked No. 6 in the NFL in yards allowed, and defensive coordinator Todd Wash will be in his second season in the position next season. But the Jaguars hired three new defensive position coaches, including secondary coach Perry Fewell – and the additions of Campbell, Church and Bouye should mean at least three new defensive starters.
"I feel like we're all starting fresh," Church said. "It's not like those guys have been there longer than me and I'm just the new guy starting out. Those guys are basically in the same boat as I am. The defensive back coaches that are there are learning the defense just like I'm learning it.
"I feel like it's something that we can take on together and it's going to be a strength of the team. I feel like the sky's the limit. It looks good on paper, but you have to make sure you handle your work on the field or all this will be for naught."