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Brunell will be captain

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In what will be his Jacksonville farewell, Mark Brunell will serve as captain for this Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

"I don't know that there's ever been anything like this done," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. "The Jaguars wanted to do something and this is something we're comfortable with. He's been excellent all year; very much a team guy."

Brunell will again be the team's number three quarterback, which makes it unlikely Brunell will play against the Saints. When asked if it was possible Brunell would be inserted into the game if the Jaguars got a two or three-touchdown lead, Del Rio said: "After the way (the Saints) played against the Giants, we just want to make sure we're not down by 2-3 touchdowns."

The Brunell issue has been a controversial story since the fourth week of the season, when rookie Byron Leftwich became the Jaguars' starting quarterback. At the time, Brunell was nursing an elbow injury he suffered in a week-three loss in Indianapolis. After surgery on the elbow in early October, Brunell went through a recovery period that stretched into November. By then, the Jaguars were committed to Leftwich and the future.

"Mark has been a tremendous asset to this organization on and off the field. The way he's conducted himself has been top-notch. We're in a difficult situation because we're trying to build for the future," Del Rio said.

Brunell became the Jaguars' official starting quarterback in the fifth game of the team's history, against Pittsburgh in 1995. He held that job through week three of this season, and Del Rio maintains: "I went into the season expecting Mark to be our quarterback. … I did not try to trade him before the season started."

The story became especially controversial for the week-five game against San Diego. Brunell told reporters his elbow injury had healed and he was ready to play. Del Rio decided that was not the case, though it wasn't until the following week that Del Rio made it known Brunell hadn't been cleared to play by the team's doctors. The miscommunication of information allowed for a firestorm of fan debate.

"He was hurt. It didn't make it easier when he came back and proclaimed himself ready to play, but the doctors hadn't cleared him," Del Rio said.

"More than anything, it was misunderstood. I said from the beginning Mark was my guy. When I said that I believed Mark was my best quarterback. People wanted to make a story. If he wasn't injured, it's my hope I'd be standing up here saying we have to find a way to win so we can stay in the playoff hunt," the coach added.

It hasn't been determined whether Brunell will serve as the Jaguars' lone captain, or whether there will be others.

He will not be with the team next season, of course, as the Jaguars move deeper into the Leftwich era. Brunell has one year remaining on his Jaguars contract. He will be released by the team before March, when he would earn a $2 million roster bonus if he was still on the Jaguars roster.

"I think it's great," Leftwich said of the planned tribute. "It's due. He's a great guy. He's done a lot of great things."

As far as Sunday's 27-13 loss in New England, Del Rio told reporters today, "I'm not pleased with the effectiveness of our kicking game, and we will look real hard at that this week. We can do a better job and we need to do a better job."

Del Rio was speaking specifically of the Patriots' favorable field position that resulted from Seth Marler's short kickoffs. Marler also missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt late in the first half, but Del Rio said he will not make a kicker switch this week.

The Jaguars coach also said he'd "like to see more carries" for running back Fred Taylor. "Being able to stay with the run game would've been beneficial," he added, and he joked that the first play of the fourth quarter, when Leftwich threw his first of two interceptions, would've been a good time to run the ball.

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