Maurice Jones-Drew has spent the summer growing a beard he hopes will announce something he refers to as "the movement." Meanwhile, the doors to their locker room have been freshly painted to read "Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp."
"That was last year," he said in reply to a reporter's question that reflected on the Jaguars' 5-11 finish in 2008. "We can't live in the past. We got the new beard going; grow out the movement."
Jones-Drew's wispy beard and his teammates reported on Sunday for the start of the team's 2009 training camp, minus first-round draft choice Eugene Monroe, who remains unsigned. The beard idea is the brainstorm of an offensive lineman Jones-Drew declined to identify. The idea is to use the beard, just as coach Jack Del Rio is using the move to a different locker room, to build team unity, which was thought to have been greatly lacking in '08.
Del Rio has moved the team from its in-season locker room at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium to the visitors' locker room, a smaller facility that'll tighten the atmosphere. All of the locker positions are solely by number, discouraging cliques and "neighborhoods." Another intent is to create a distinction between training camp and the regular season.
"I like it," Jones-Drew said of the idea. "You can't be comfortable. No one has a spot and everybody has to find their way in."
Make no mistake, these are not last year's Jaguars. These Jaguars are new and, hopefully, improved.
"A lot of people got cut. GM Gene (Smith) brought a lot of rookies in," Jones-Drew said, then predicting that training camp will include "much more hitting, tackling. We're younger so we can deal with it."
Jones-Drew appears to have completely bought into the beard idea. Since OTAs ended in late June, Jones-Drew dropped 14 pounds and added 15 whiskers.
"You'll see more and more people do it and you'll see everybody buying in," he predicted. "I'm not shaving the whole season."
Quarterback David Garrard reported to camp sporting a week-and-a-half of facial hair. Garrard professed to being totally committed to success in 2009, but he was hesitant to say how long he'll stick with the beard.
"We'll see how long it lasts. I can go with it for awhile. I just want to build team unity," he said.
Garrard said he weighs about 238, which is at least 12 pounds lighter than the weight at which he finished last season. He seemed to be more excited about his improved conditioning and upgraded receiving corps than he was about his beard.
"I'm able to play at a higher pace than before," he said.
A more rigorous training camp?
"It can't be any worse than one of Tom Coughlin's camps," he joked, sort of.
He was nothing but serious about the Jaguars receiving corps. Garrard says he spent much of the summer exchanging text messages with offseason acquisition Torry Holt, who is expected to become Garrard's go-to receiver this year.
"He definitely has game left. He knows what it takes to get the job done. Being able to count on him to run the right route; he's picked that up in one offseason. It gives me confidence to know the receiver to my left knows what he's doing," Garrard said.
"Look at the guys we have here now and I'm excited about it. We're just going to be better and I just know that in my mind and in my heart," said Garrard, who acknowledged that the team has "done everything in their power to get (me) more weapons and more offensive linemen. My confidence is definitely higher."
The Jaguars will conduct their first practice of training camp on Monday morning, beginning at 10:45.