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Big crowd; no Leftwich


The first practice of the first training camp in this new era of Jaguars football began this morning with what may have been the largest fan attendance in Jaguars training camp history. It also began without the first draft choice of this new era in Jaguars football.

Fans at the Jaguars new practice complex this morning numbered 2,667 (official count). Byron Leftwich was not among them.

"We're very pleased with the turnout. It was awesome to open these fields and have all these fans show up," rookie head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters following practice.

Then he turned his attention to his team's only absent player, Leftwich, the seventh pick of this year's NFL draft. Leftwich, billed as the Jaguars' quarterback of the future, joins the ranks of rookies whose NFL careers began with a contract holdout. Del Rio did the same.

"I was once a holdout myself," Del Rio said. "I understand the business side of it. I talk to the guys about there's a time for pay and there's a time for play, and (Leftwich is) still working on the pay side of it."

Jaguars lead negotiator Paul Vance said he planned to talk to Leftwich's agent, Tom Condon, later in the day. Neither Vance nor Del Rio would speculate on chances of getting their rookie quarterback signed quickly.

Meanwhile, Mark Brunell began what many believe will be his final season in Jacksonville with what his new coach termed an impressive practice performance. "There were some nice throws by Mark, There were some holes in our defense I'd rather not see. (Brunell) was obviously very sharp," Del Rio said.

And Brunell's post-practice remarks were also sharp.

When questioned about Del Rio's comments two days previously that the quarterback position is open to competition between Brunell and Garrard, Brunell stared at the reporter, paused and then said: "You can tell I'm not going down this road."

Clearly, Brunell was displeased that his status as the team's starting quarterback had been challenged. Twice during his interview with reporters he referred to himself as "the starting quarterback" and to the Jaguars as "my team."

"My specific motivation is to win. It's my team. I'm the starting quarterback. I'd like to win 10 games and get into the playoffs. We should expect to do that," Brunell said.

When asked to speculate about his future with the Jaguars beyond this season, Brunell was more diplomatic.

"For me to think about that stuff right now would be detrimental. I want to finish my career here, but there are things you can't control. You can control your game," he said.

Garrard sidestepped questions about a competition for the starting quarterback job.

"I just feel like I'm competing. This is just my second year. I'm not going to rush into anything and I'm not going to pressure anything," he said.

Later in the interview he added: "I want to let everyone know who I am and what I can do."

"Garrard looked good. His hamstring (injury) is behind him and he's ready to go; he's ready to battle," Del Rio said.

Del Rio explained that his comments about the quarterback position were painted with a broad brush.

"There are no guarantees for anyone. This is the NFL. You have to go out and re-establish yourself every year," Del Rio said.

Tony Brackens is one of those players who the Jaguars desperately need to re-establish his career. But Brackens began this year's training camp in the same capacity he spent last summer's: unable to participate.

Brackens was placed on the "Active/Physically Unable to Perform" list Friday afternoon. Following this morning's practice, Brackens said his mid-June appendectomy -- not his recovery from knee surgery -- is the reason he can't practice.

"It'll be a couple of weeks before I can hit somebody. As of right now, I think I'll actually start working in in the next 2-3 weeks," Brackens said.

The veteran defensive end said he was beginning to do some running just before he was felled by the appendectomy. Brackens had been sidelined throughout the spring by microfracture surgery on his left knee last November.

"My understanding is that he can't do anything until he's cleared from his surgery on his appendix," Del Rio said.

The bottom line is that Brackens remains an uncertainty for a team that is desperate for help at defensive end.

"I think I'll be ready (for the season-opener), hopefully. We'll have to see how it goes," said Brackens, who added that he expects to begin running by the middle of next week.

The Jaguars' prized free-agent acquisition, veteran defensive end Hugh Douglas, practiced and appeared considerably lighter and quicker than he was in spring drills. But Douglas begged off any early predictions or pronouncements of expectations.

"It's the first day. Ask me that question 2-3 weeks from now," he said.

He didn't shrink from answering a question about reports that Douglas ran out of gas toward the end of last season.

"If you pull out my games from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, it's the same," Douglas said of his performance with the Eagles last year. "They can say whatever they want in Philly."

And of reports that he has knee problems: "It's funny, when I was in Philly my game was fine. Now, there are all these phantom knee injuries," he said.

Fans who want an up-close look at Douglas and his knees will certainly have an opportunity for the next four weeks. This new era of Jaguars football and its new practice complex allows fans to get within a few feet of some drills, and closer to the action than at any previous time in Jaguars training camp history.

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