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Cool start to Week Two of Jaguars Training Camp


JACKSONVILLE – Well, what do you know…

On the first day of the second full week of Jaguars 2014 Training Camp, things got a little more interesting, a little more animated and a little more fun.

Not that it wasn't fun already. We had storylines. We had camp battles. We had skirmishes, and big plays. We had a lot of new faces, a mock game and new video boards, all of which meant a whole lot of people – fans, particularly – were having a good late July/early August around EverBank Field.

Gus Bradley sure had his share of fun Monday.

Yes, Bradley's always animated and just about always upbeat, but there was something different in the Jaguars' Head Coach's voice after Monday's lightning-shortened practice. That's because during that practice he witnessed something he thought was really, really cool.

And he got to witness it not once but twice.

First, defensive end Red Bryant stopped practice, and did so after a play that the defensive end later said didn't live up his standards, or the standards of the defense.

It was a play that didn't seem disastrous to the naked eye. Running back Jordan Todman got outside the defense for a long run, and if nothing else happened the play may not even have made the "highlights" section of your average website/newspaper camp report.

But something else did happen. Bryant, who signed with the team as a free agent in the offseason, stopped practice and basically started the session over.

"Stopping the run is something I take pride in," Bryant said. "I just felt like the first play I hurt the defense and set the tone for things going downhill. I wanted to call everybody up and tell them it wasn't good enough. It wasn't good enough for me, and I wanted to let the guys know it's OK to hold me accountable.

"We're counting on one another. That's the difference between winning and losing, the little things. You have to hold each other accountable."

Stop. Re-read that quote.  If you want to know why the Jaguars signed Bryant – aside from his 6-feet-4, 323-pound, run-stuffing frame – it's in the quote. Leadership oozes from every word. Bryant, a captain on the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl championship team a year ago, said the Jaguars stacked up a bunch of good defensive practices last week, and that there was no reason to stop stacking just because of lack of focus on one play.

Given the choice to speak up or not to speak up …

Well, Bryant didn't see it as a choice at all.

"We have to take care of it … right now," Bryant said. "We can't say, 'We're going to do it the next day.' One thing I've learned is, 'Tomorrow never comes.' You have to work on the now."

What Bryant did would have been cool enough for Bradley, but later on in practice, the scene was pretty much repeated – only this time on offense.

And the fact that it was quarterback Chad Henne who called the offense together? The fact that it was Henne who told his teammates in animated fashion that things had to get better?

Yeah, Bradley thought that was cool, too.

Really, really cool.

"It was great," Bradley said. "The team has felt him through OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamp, and that's a great sign right there. It just demonstrates 'Hey, we're not meeting the level.' It's kind of cool … again, another illustration that they are understanding the standard that we're trying to create here."

Bradley throughout his tenure as head coach has talked about the importance of players taking ownership of the team. He has talked about it on offense. He has talked about it on defense. It's one thing for coaches to teach schemes, techniques and approach, but Bradley believes there's a higher level. It's a level where players understand what's expected enough that they offer input, and that they are comfortable not only discussing what's best, but demanding what's expected from teammates.

"They have to know what you want," Bradley said. "They have to know when it's expected. Then they have to take care of themselves and then once they feel as a unit, someone has to step up. Someone has to step up and say, 'Hey, this is unacceptable. This is what we're going after.'

"It can come from coaches, and we'll take on that responsibility, but there has to be a point and time when they take it over. It was a good sign today."

There are other storylines around the Jaguars, too, of course, as we enter Week Two. As the Jaguars prepare to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason opener at EverBank Field Friday, health at the wide receiver position is an issue, and now running back Toby Gerhart has missed three consecutive days of practice.

Those appear to be short-term things, and the long-term issue of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' development is getting interesting, too. He looked good in Saturday's scrimmage. Really good. Repeat that in a few preseason games and you feel darned good about the Jaguars' future.

Bradley, for his part, on Monday felt a lot better about the present thanks to a pair of veterans who stepped forward at the right time. Seeing that made it a cool day for Bradley, and it made the first day of the second full week of training camp a little more fun.

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