Mark Brunell underwent surgery today on his injured left elbow, and coach Jack Del Rio was unable to supply a timeline for the veteran quarterback's return to action.
Del Rio told reporters at his press conference this afternoon that "Mark Brunell is out; had surgery today to remove the bursa. It continued to swell and wouldn't allow the arm to heal, the wound to close."
Brunell suffered a major laceration on his passing arm in the Jaguars' Sept. 21 loss in Indianapolis. He has been inactive for the last three games and hasn't practiced with the team.
"He hasn't been back. I know he proclaimed himself healthy, but I was never given the green light on him being healthy, and he remains not healthy," Del Rio told reporters today.
Del Rio explained that the bursa sac "swells to protect that joint and it won't settle down." Brunell confirmed the problem following yesterday's game.
"You're talking 2-3 weeks before he comes out of the stitches, and then we'll see where he's at," Del Rio said when asked if Brunell is a candidate for the injured reserve list.
Meanwhile, punter Chris Hanson was expected to leave Baptist Medical Center today, after having undergone surgery last Thursday afternoon to repair an ax wound to his lower right leg. The accident occurred last Thursday morning, when Hanson took a swing with the infamous "clubhouse ax" at the tree stump that had become the symbol of Del Rio's "keep choppin' wood" theme.
The Brunell news further quiets the "Great Quarterback Debate." Rookie Byron Leftwich has started the last three games and will continue in that capacity when the Jaguars host the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 26. This week, of course, is the Jaguars' bye.
"There were some throws I'm sure he'd like to have back, and then there were times when there was too much pressure," Del Rio said in evaluating Leftwich's performance in the Jaguars' 24-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins yesterday. Leftwich was intercepted three times and fumbled twice.
"We picked up a lot of yardage. We just didn't score enough points," the coach added.
Of course, the Jaguars' five turnovers were the greatest contributor to the team's downfall. Running back Fred Taylor fumbled twice and lost one, his third lost fumble of the season.
"It's a case of him trying to do too much; trying to make too much out of one play," Del Rio said of Taylor.
The coach also supported his use of the NFL's "challenge" system and said he will use the bye week to determine if the system is functioning as smoothly as possible. "I'd like to see it function a little smoother here at home," he said, referring to the availability of replays to determine whether or not to challenge an official's call.
Yesterday, Del Rio lost two second-half challenges, each of which cost the Jaguars a time out. Del Rio said that after watching the tapes today of the disputed Leftwich third-quarter fumble, he remains convinced Leftwich's arm was moving forward and that the officials made the wrong call. Of the other disputed play, Del Rio agreed with the call and the replay-review decision.
"I believe the decisions to challenge when we did were the right decisions," said Del Rio, who is 1-4 in "challenges" this season.
These are difficult times for the Jaguars coach, who has started his head-coaching career 1-5 and at the center of controversy, which reached a peak last week with the Hanson incident. But Del Rio remains optimistic.
"Things have not gone the way we want them to go. My approach is … to accentuate the positive. We're going to go back to basics; work on fundamentals," Del Rio said of his bye-week plan.
"Times will be better and soon, here. The hardest thing to do is come to work, do your job and keep doing it that way," he added. Of course, at this time last week he was using the slogan "keep choppin' wood" in making that point. "There's perception and there's reality. We're going to deal with reality. … My job is to lead this football team and win games."