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Brunell remembers roots

Eight years ago, these two teams took their first infant steps against each other in the July 29, 1995, Hall of Fame Game. Then, Mark Brunell was the Jaguars' quarterback of the future.

"I can remember my first play of that game. I dropped back, didn't find anything and ran. Imagine that," Brunell said as he surveyed the landscape of his pro football roots. They were roots from which a mighty career would emerge.

By the fifth game of that '95 season, Brunell had become the Jaguars' starting quarterback, replacing Steve Beuerlein in the fourth quarter of week four, when Brunell came off the bench to rally the Jaguars to their first-ever win.

But back to that Hall of Fame Game between the Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, who scored a 20-14 win.

"I remember driving at the end (of the game) and overthrowing a fade route for Johnnie Morton to not get the win," Brunell said.

"Those were good times. They're good looking back on it. You didn't realize what was developing then," Brunell said.

A great career was developing; the career of a quarterback who would become the everlasting identity of the Jaguars franchise. Now, heading into this team's ninth season, Brunell is still the team's starting quarterback, but his place at the top of this team is certain to last only one more season; maybe less than that.

Ironically, the Panthers will be the opponents again this Sunday. They were the foe on the day Brunell first wore a Jaguars uniform, and they are the opening-day opponent in what is expected to be the last season Brunell will wear a Jaguars uniform.

"I think we can beat these guys, but it certainly will take a great effort," Brunell said of Sunday's game at Ericsson Stadium.

It will be only the third time the two teams will have met in the regular season, and the first time since 1999. These two expansion rivals have spent their histories in opposite conferences, where their paths have seldom crossed. The Hall of Fame Game and all of the rivalry that went with it did not portend things to come. There is nothing special about Sunday's game, other than the fact it's the first game of a season that'll be Brunell's last.

Meanwhile, head coach Jack Del Rio came off the practice field today with nothing especially newsworthy. He said his team is "excited to play" and offered little in the way of a report because "we don't want to make their jobs easy."

When asked if he could offer any information on who his backup quarterback would be on Sunday, Del Rio said: "Not that I want to announce."

It's a season that's almost certain to produce a weekly quarterback drama, which brings that afternoon in Canton, Ohio, in the summer of 1995 into even sharper focus.

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