JACKSONVILLE – Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence was always going to be the story on the first day of his first NFL training camp.
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, met early expectations with a laundry list of precise throws at every level of the field. Lawrence and veteran Gardner Minshew II split time with the first-team offense and Head Coach Urban Meyer indicated that would continue.
But it was Lawrence who held nearly everyone's attention during a hot and humid morning session.
"I saw him hit a pass today, it was so pretty," cornerback Shaquill Griffin said after the Jaguars' first practice of 2021 Training Camp Wednesday at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.
"I remember sitting on the sideline. Me and [cornerback] Tre Herndon were talking, and you could really see he put the work in. Because you go into OTAs (organized team activities during May and June) … the passes were good, but now it's about the timing with the receivers and you can see the videos where they had the chance to work with one another."
Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. was one of the receivers in those now famous social media videos of Lawrence working with Jaguars receivers at Clemson University during the summer. Chark, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2019 season, said he was mostly dialed in on what he was doing and wasn't even focused on who was throwing him the ball. But he didn't sound a bit surprised to learn Lawrence had a good day and said the time together before camp was valuable.
"It was a great time just building a relationship," Chark said. "But also getting used to his passes, him getting used to the way we run routes because everyone runs routes differently, working on timing, seeing the routes we like the best, passes he likes the best, what we need to work on what he needs to work on. It was good for a lot of different reasons."
It's clear that Griffin is the go-to guy in the secondary and will be one of the most visible and vocal leaders on that side of the football. "There are takers and there are givers," Head Coach Urban Meyer said. "Takers are people you have to constantly motivate; I've said that for years. Great players prepare. Shaq loves the game; he loves to practice." Griffin, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Seattle Seahawks this past offseason, did his homework on Meyer and prepared himself for what could be a demanding and challenging training camp. "One thing I preached yesterday, before we even started, was it's going to be hard," he said. "This is going to be tough. There are going to be days where it's like 'Man, how are we going to get through it?' This football stuff is not easy, but I expect that whatever is going to come is going to come and I'm going to give my all to it."
Under a brilliant summer sun without a cloud in the sky and humidity nearing the drenching point, Griffin recalled with a smile that bordered on a grimace that the weather in the Pacific Northwest is somewhat less difficult to practice in. "The weather is definitely different," said Griffin, who played collegiately at the University of Central Florida. "I thought my Florida blood would kick in, but I guess not. I was in Seattle for a minute, but eventually it will kick in. I was talking to DJ [Chark] and he said it's going to get hotter; we haven't put on equipment yet and I was like 'Don't tell me that!" But it's just something we have to go through to get where we want to go."
Wednesday's practice was the most normal football has felt in a very long time, but contract tracers are on, and masks are being worn. Meyer announced over 80 percent of the team is currently vaccinated. Meyer, Chark and Griffin all had the same mindset – they felt it was best to get the vaccine, but they are not going to force their opinion on others. "Players ask for information … which vaccine you may have taken or things like that," Chark said. "One thing I can say about our locker room: Everybody is an adult. It's your decision. I personally haven't tried to convince anyone to get it. I just know it's way easier throughout your day-to-day process having it, but if you're willing to take the extra steps that are required if you're unvaccinated … so be it. To each his own."