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Brunell doesn't practice


Mark Brunell sounded like a guy who doesn't expect to play, Byron Leftwich spoke with the enthusiasm of youth, and coach Jack Del Rio chose to say little about the state of his quarterback situation.

On the first day of the Jaguars' preparation for Sunday's game in Houston, Brunell was held out of practice and Leftwich took most of the practice snaps. Though Brunell clings to hope he'll be cleared medically to play, every indication today was that Leftwich will be making his first professional start this Sunday.

When Brunell was asked if he thinks he'll be ready to play, he answered with "I think so," but then wavered a bit. "I need to make some improvement with the elbow, but I'm questionable, so it's one day at a time.

"You have to take into account the doctor's decision," Brunell added. "I don't want to get this thing infected. I don't want to split the stitches. The cut is right on the joint, so, if I get any kind of infection, I'm in trouble. It's an open wound and I have to be smart."

Brunell suffered the left elbow injury in the first quarter of last Sunday's loss in Indianapolis, when he landed on the artificial turf on his elbow and literally pushed the bone through the skin. He continued to play and admitted today the injury bothered him more as the game wore on. The elbow was stitched after the game.

Monday, Del Rio told reporters Brunell would be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in Houston if he is healthy, but Brunell did not paint a positive picture for his recovery. He is listed on the Jaguars' injury report as "questionable," which means there's a 50 percent chance Brunell will play.

In his press conference this afternoon, Del Rio was asked who his starting quarterback will be this Sunday. "We'll decide that on Sunday, or announce it. I've decided not to talk about it," Del Rio said, making it clear he intends to guard that information.

"We'll evaluate it as the week goes on," Del Rio said of Brunell's injury, and an examination tomorrow morning will determine if Brunell will practice.

"Until he's cleared by the doctors and he's ready to play, until then we will evaluate him daily," Del Rio added.

Meanwhile, Leftwich held nothing back as he entertained reporters' questions following practice. What if he makes his debut as a starter this Sunday?

"If I do, it'll be a great moment. Right now, Mark's doing everything he can in rehab," Leftwich said.

The seventh pick of this year's draft, Leftwich missed all of training camp and has appeared only in two mop-up roles, though they each produced a touchdown. But he's the darling of the Jacksonville sports scene this week, having appeared on Del Rio's weekly TV show this past Monday, and his energy is the equal of his celebrity.

"We've got the whole thing in. We don't have to limit this offense because of me," he said of the playbook.

What about Texans coach Dom Capers and his zone-blitz?

"I've seen it all," he said, referring to his experiences against the zone-blitz while at Marshall.


"There's no other way to go about this. How can you be out there and not be confident?" he said.

Leftwich attempted not to be aware of Jaguars fans' excitement to see him play, but he admitted: "Maybe some people are anxious to see me play. I just try to stay away from that. It can't make us a better team.

"I'm not going to put any added pressure on myself; just go out there and play the game of football," he added.

Del Rio did not alter his stance on Brunell as the team's official starting quarterback. "If the doctor says (I'm) clear to play, then I'm going to play, absolutely," Brunell said.

Meanwhile, Del Rio told reporters the Jaguars won't know until Monday if Jimmy Smith will be cleared to rejoin the team following his four-game drug suspension. "All the reports we've had are good," Del Rio said.

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