The preseason is something players and fans alike have to endure, but this Saturday's preseason-opener in Miami will offer a little more excitement than usual for Byron Leftwich.
"It's been a long time since I've been out there. It's going to be fun getting back out there," the Jaguars quarterback said following Tuesday morning's practice.
Leftwich's season ended last year on Oct. 22, when the effects of an ankle injury dating back to the second half of the 2005 season could no longer be ignored. He underwent season-ending surgery and, well, you know the rest.
Now he's back and, by all indications in training camp, better than ever. He was sharp again in practice on Tuesday and Leftwich is hoping his strong training camp start will spill into the preseason and beyond.
"Our receiving corps is looking great. They're making plays for me every day. They love this (offensive) system and it's going to be fun to see what happens," Leftwich told reporters.
It was a practice that was punctuated by an anxious-looking knee injury wide receiver Ernest Wilford sustained while catching a pass from quarterback David Garrard. Wilford rolled in pain on the ground and, immediately, tension at training camp's most dramatic position intensified.
Shortly after practice, however, head coach Jack Del Rio expressed the initial belief that Wilford's injury did not appear to be significant. Del Rio said all ligaments appeared to be strong and the Jaguars were optimistic Wilford's injury was just a scare.
Wilford was named to the first team on Del Rio's first depth chart of training camp. Dennis Northcutt (pictured above) is the other first-team wide receiver.
"This is a new start for myself," Northcutt said. "We have a new coordinator (Dirk Koetter). The quarterback is looking good. The thing with this preseason game is just do what we've been doing."
What the Jaguars have been doing in this training camp is improve daily, especially in the passing game, which is considered to be the area of the team separating it from the championship level.
Northcutt was signed in free agency, ostensibly, to be the Jaguars' number three/slot receiver. Now, he finds himself as the team's "number one," which is a tribute to Northcutt's performance through the spring and into the summer.
"I was signed to help the team any way possible. You always have to prepare yourself to be a one or a two or whatever it takes because guys go down all the time," Northcutt said.
Wide receiver Matt Jones, second team on the depth chart, missed the second half of Tuesday morning's practice, requiring an ice bag to be applied to his hamstring. On the plus side, tight end George Wrighster has been taken off the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and participated in practice.
Garrard may have enjoyed his best practice of camp. His passes were razor sharp and on the money throughout the morning.
Leftwich spoke of his goal in this Saturday's game:
"Make sure we execute. No matter how good it is or how bad it is, there will be three more opportunities to make sure we're ready for September," Leftwich said.