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Daryl Smith likes additions


Daryl Smith sees little reason for the process to take overly long.

"These guys are vets," Smith, the Jaguars' veteran linebacker, said of the team's recent free agency additions, a group that includes not only linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, but offensive guard/center Justin Spitz.

"They've been around and know what they're doing. They'll come in, study, practice and be ready to go."

That's the next phase of the process for the Jaguars' free agents, a group that has the potential to improve the defense and energize the franchise. They have signed, and with that comes anticipation and excitement. Now, they must start the process of studying and practicing and acclimating to a new environment.

The studying for each free agent already has begun.

The practicing . . .

Well, that phase has yet to happen and there's still some debate about when it will. Under the recently-negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement, free agents who sign new contracts may not begin practicing with teams until the start of the new league year.

That's Thursday, August 4, so under that rule, players such as Posluszny, Session and Spitz – who, like Session and Posluszny officially signed and attended practice Friday – may attend meetings until then, but they may not practice.

The rule only applies to veterans, so rookies such as quarterback Blaine Gabbert – who impressed fans during Friday night's practice – can work with their teams.

Still, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio expressed optimism Saturday that the team's free agent signees could begin practicing before August 4.

"They recertified yesterday, right?" Del Rio said, referring to the recertification by the NFL Players Association that was a major issue in the ratifying of the CBA. "OK, so they should be hammering out the last parts of the agreement. Once that's in place, we can start. I don't see any reason we should have to wait until Thursday or Friday.

"Maybe I'm being overly optimistic. I hope not, but I really sincerely believe we should have those guys by Monday or Tuesday at the latest, so that's one man's opinion."

When the free agents are cleared to practice, Session and Posluszny will be a major focus.  They are high-impact, physical players who are expected to help the team improve defensively from last season.

"We really wanted to shore up the middle of the defense," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said Posluszny has the ability to "rack up a lot of tackles" and "direct traffic" with Session a "run-and-hit guy" on the outside.

"I just think we have a good, solid core now at linebacker," Del Rio said. "We expect to play strong defensively again."

When Del Rio discussed the players, he talked about the same thing Smith did: That the additions are experienced veterans, and as such – while there will be an adjustment – the timeline between signing and on-field effectiveness shouldn't be a long one.

"There's a lot of work to be done, but the good thing is in our case, most of the guys we're adding are veteran defensive players," Del Rio said. "The terminology might be different, but they've done it. They have done it at this level. They understand what the league looks like. They understand what it is to prepare during the week. They understand the sacrifices they need to make.

"They've gone up against guys at this level and performed well. That kind of guy can be brought up to speed a lot quicker than say an undrafted rookie who has no idea what the NFL is like. From that standpoint, we were fortunate that a lot of the areas we needed to address we addressed with veteran free agents on defense.

"That should help us get up to speed quickly."

Del Rio, too, said the reality of the 2011 post-lockout training camp is that uncertainty isn't exclusive to the Jaguars.

 "That's no different than anybody else," Del Rio said. "We're all in that mode. We didn't have the time in May and June to work on those things. They'll get a little bit of a crash course. We'll need to go back and re-teach it, but we have an approach and a thought about what we need to do to get that all accomplished."

Del Rio said three days into camp the staff is still getting a feel for the fitness level of players returning after the four-month lockout, as well as how much knowledge has been retained.

"Is it a blank slate that you're working over again, or, 'Yeah, I remember that?''' Del Rio said.

While it remains uncertain whether the free agents can practice, what is certain is that in the coming days, the training camp practices will intensify, something Del Rio said he is looking forward to. The drills Thursday and Friday were limited to shorts and baseball caps, while players can work in shoulder pads Saturday night. The first full pads practice will be held Sunday night, a night that will feature a Jaguars training camp tradition, the Oklahoma Drill.

"We get to put the shoulder pads on – we'll start banging a little bit," Del Rio said. "We've eased in about as drastically as you can. We are going into day four and we haven't had a pad on yet. We are easing into camp as has been prescribed. Football is a physical game. Our fans like the physical part.

"We have a collection of that gladiator, warrior-type guy in our locker room that wants to get after it. There's a time for it. We're going to get our time starting tonight. We're going to be a physical football team.  You have to get some work in pads to get ready for that. We'll get started tonight."

Smith, for his part, said he is looking forward to playing with Posluszny and Session, but mostly after a few days in shorts and baseball caps with a less-than-full roster, he – like Del Rio -- is looking forward to real, padded work with an entire signed roster to begin.

"We're just ready to get everybody out here and start working," Smith said. "We look good on paper, but we have to get everybody working.

"We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of work to do."

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