At some point after the season, we'll find out just how difficult it's been for Mark Brunell to have played half a season on an injured right leg. After the season is usually when that information leaks out. During the season is for hiding hurts and being tough. Brunell has always been that kind of player.
"Mark has taken a lot of hits this year. He's a tough guy," coach Tom Coughlin said of his quarterback, who injured his right quadriceps in Baltimore on Oct. 28, but has missed only one game since then.
Tough? Here's how tough Brunell is.
On a gimpy right leg, Brunell has run for 134 of his 191 yards rushing this season. Since injuring his right leg, Brunell has been sacked 36 times. During that time, he has also thrown for 1,770 of his 2,620 yards passing, and for 10 of his 15 touchdown passes this season.
Not only has his performance not fallen off due to the injury, it would seem to have improved.
Is that tough enough for you?
"I want to get out healthy and I want to get out 8-8," Brunell said of his goals for what remains of the 2001 season.
To accomplish that, Brunell will need better pass-protection than he's gotten the past two weeks. He was sacked eight times each; 16 times in Ohio, alone, this year. Those two games share the franchise record for most sacks allowed in a game.
"The first thing we can do is start running the ball on a consistent basis. We've thrown the ball so many times that you put the odds in their favor. Maybe the receiver runs the wrong route and the quarterback has to hold the ball a while longer. We have to do a better job up front, too," left tackle Todd Fordham said.
Coughlin didn't put all of the blame on the offensive line for the Browns' eight sacks this past Sunday. He spread the blame to the running backs, too, but Fordham knows where most fingers point.
"When you talk about sacks, you have to look up front," he said. "But I can name four that have nothing to do with the offensive line. The numbers look bad, but you have to know what they are, too."
Guard Brad Meester says opposing defenses have reacted to the Jaguars' sack woes by putting even more emphasis on rushing Brunell. Blitzes against the Jaguars have become commonplace.
"We've got to be able to pick it up. We'll work it out. We've got to make a statement. We've got to stop it. When we do, they'll starting backing off," Meester said.
If they don't, Brunell will just have to get tougher.