Quarterback Byron Leftwich could be back as early as the final regular season game against the Tennessee Titans. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said that remains the projection for Leftwich's return to action from the broken ankle he sustained on Nov. 27.
"We'll get him back at some point. It's still possible, yes. The earliest we've said all along is that he could get back in the Tennessee game," Del Rio told reporters at Monday's press conference.
"It's healing," Del Rio added of Leftwich's left ankle. "He got rid of his crutches. He's excited to return but we're going to be smart with it. I don't see a change to the approach we had."
David Garrard has been the starter in the Jaguars' last three games, two of them wins, but Garrard struggled in leading the Jaguars to a 10-9 win over 2-12 San Francisco on Sunday. Garrard will be the starter in Houston this Saturday when the Jaguars attempt to clinch a wild-card playoff berth. It's win and in for the Jaguars.
"We thought we could throw the ball. We left some opportunities out there," Del Rio said of his team's passing attack against the 49ers, which was unable to produce significant plays in a performance that included dropped passes and less-than-perfect pass-protection.
Those are the negatives from Sunday's game. The Jaguars struggled offensively against the league's 32nd-ranked pass-defense and 32nd-ranked defense overall and, clearly, the Jaguars need for something dramatic to happen on offense over the next two weeks to have legitimate hope of going deep into the playoffs.
Del Rio, however, remained supportive of his team's record and overall performance this season, and he explained the reasons for his refusal to reprimand his team for narrow victories against teams with poor records.
"Four teams in the NFL have better records than us and we've beaten two of them. I think that's pretty good," Del Rio said. He also talked about three other teams in the league having 10-4 records and the perception associated with those teams being much brighter than the Jaguars', largely because the other 10-4 records belong to teams leading their divisions. "I think it feels different because we're not a division leader," he said.
Del Rio was asked why he doesn't demand a higher level of performance against teams such as the 49ers. The inference was that narrow wins against lesser teams is acceptable.
"It is OK to win," Del Rio said. "You're assuming we don't demand perfection and we do. You're always striving for perfection. I don't think you gain a lot by beating your team down. Everybody has their own approach. There may be more beating down that takes place privately, which is my preference."
Del Rio also offered a response on recent reports in "The Baltimore Sun" that he might be interested in the Ravens head coach's job, should Brian Billick be fired.
"I have a contract to be here the next two years. I focus on doing my job. My vision for this football team is to build it into a team that can make it into the playoffs every year and fight for a world championship. The rest of the stuff will take care of itself," Del Rio said.
Monday's press conference touched on several different subjects.
"We're not driven by a poll," Del Rio said in defending his team's 10-9 win over the 49ers. "San Diego, last week they were favorites (against Miami), would've taken a 10-9 win. We want to be a championship team and we have to do things better to become a championship team."
Saturday's game in Houston would seem to include some eerie parallels to last year's day-after-Christmas defeat to the Texans that cost the Jaguars a playoff berth, but Del Rio said that's not the case.
"I think it's totally different. Two wins more; we're 10-4. At the middle of the season we found ways to win. It just feels different," he said.
Del Rio praised the play of rookie safety Gerald Sensabaugh and second-year wide receiver Reggie Williams, but acknowledged that Williams' penchant for post-play celebrations may have been a little over the top on Sunday.
"He'll mature as a player. The celebration after a block on a one-yard run really isn't the time," Del Rio said.
Running back Greg Jones sustained a neck burner and had to leave Sunday's game in the second half, but Del Rio said Jones will likely play in Houston this Saturday.