It has begun.
Following a five-month salary-cap repair effort, 91 Jaguars reported to training camp today. There are no holdouts. There are no problems. Imagine that.
With veteran linebacker Kevin Hardy's contract re-structured, and first-round draft choice Marcus Stroud the last of the 91 players to be included on the salary cap, coach Tom Coughlin paced his rookies through a conditioning drill that officially announced the start of a camp that will conclude on Aug. 20.
"In the final hours, he did what was best for the team," Coughlin said of Hardy's decision to agree to a re-structuring that permitted the Jaguars enough salary cap relief to sign Stroud.
Meanwhile, Stroud was on hand for the afternoon conditioning drill, but didn't participate because he had yet to sign his formal contract.
"I'm happy to have this over with. I didn't have much doubt. I feel like I got a great deal," the defensive tackle said of his contract, a five-year deal worth $8.4 million, including a $2 million signing bonus.
Stroud will be closely watched throughout training camp, since the Jaguars are depending on him to improve a defense that was a major liability last season. He is expected to be a major player in the middle of that defense, which features starting defensive tackle Gary Walker.
"I have to earn it," Stroud said of a starting job. "I don't want to be penciled in. I don't want to be given anything."
Coughlin faces a training camp that may produce 20 new faces on this year's roster. To say the least, this camp will be hotly contested, however, the Jaguars' thin ranks are such that they can not afford injury to any of their major players.
"You don't coach caution. You gotta go. It's football time," Coughlin said.
Considering the their offseason travails, the Jaguars must feel relieved a new season is starting.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.