JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines Day One of the joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wednesday – with an eye on the return to EverBank Field of former Jaguars LB Daryl Smith
His memories are good ones – but yeah, Wednesday was weird for Daryl Smith.
It was, after all, the veteran linebacker's first time working at EverBank Field since he left the Jaguars after the 2012 season.
"It's kind of like I didn't leave, but it's always good to get back here," Smith said after Wednesday's joint practice between the Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
Smith, a second-round selection from Georgia Tech by the Jaguars in the 2004 NFL Draft, played nine seasons with the Jaguars before not being re-signed with Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell took control of football operations in the 2013 offseason.
Just two defensive players remain on the roster who played with Smith: defensive end Tyson Alualu and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. Quarterback Chad Henne and tight end Marcedes Lewis are the lone offensive players who played with Smith.
The Jaguars at the time were remaking the roster, building with the idea of drafting and developing young players to build a long-term sustainable core. Bradley talked this week about being impressed by Smith in the one meeting they had that offseason, and Smith and Bradley spoke on the field Wednesday.
"We just talked about the last few years, and how we wish each other the best," Smith said. "Things always work out the way they're supposed to. I didn't want to leave in the first place, but I guess it had to happen. I've learned a lot since I've been gone and they've been getting better and better every year.
"I can't ever look back and say, 'I wish this didn't happen.' The past is the past and you learn from it and move on. All of the memories, all the friendships I have – they're forever."
Smith, who missed all but two games of his final season in Jacksonville, started 16 games each of the last three seasons with Baltimore. He had a day off practice Wednesday, but is expected to start at outside linebacker for Tampa Bay this season. The Buccaneers are coordinated defensively by Mike Smith, the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville from 2003-2007.
Smith, entering his 13th NFL season, said he was somewhat surprised by his longevity.
"It really has flown by," he said. "I'm still loving and enjoying the game. I know you can't do it forever, so I'm trying to soak up everything I can."
Images from Wednesday's joint practice with the TB Bucs.
RETURN GAME II
Smith wasn't the only familiar face returning to EverBank Field Wednesday. Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter spent 2007-2011 as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator from 2003-2007. Buccaneers punter Bryan Anger was the Jaguars' punter from 2012-2015 and Buccaneers running back Storm Johnson spent 2014 with the Jaguars.
Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey said while he wanted to play the preseason opener against the Jets Thursday he understood the reason for the team being cautious and not playing him. Ramsey, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, missed the game for precautionary reasons and didn't work in a contact situation again until Wednesday's practice. He had missed much of the offseason program following surgery after a small meniscus tear. "I wanted to play, but you've got to be smart about it," Ramsey said. "I just came off knee surgery. I'm still to this day getting some rust off of it, getting into the swing of things and getting into the groove of things. It's about being smart. It's the preseason. I'm trying to be 100 percent for the [regular-season opener] against the Packers. I'm very, very close to that."
"He's one of the best people and best players I've ever been around. He could play at such a high level. Daryl could play middle linebacker. He could cover a tight end man-to-man. He could rush. That's really, really impressive when guys have all of those skills. When you see a guy who can do all of that and he's so humble, so willing to help everyone and such a great teammate … you say, 'Wow, that's what you want, right there.'''
---Posluszny on former Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith
Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said he feels fully recovered from the triceps tear that kept him out the last nine games of last season – and from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him the first four games of last season. Those are two major injuries, and Marks has looked more sudden/stronger in practice in recent days. "I'm exactly where I want to be," said Marks, who led the Jaguars with 8.5 sacks in 2014. "I feel good. I'm playing good. I'm back at home where I was."
Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns missed practice Wednesday but Bradley said he is expected to return Thursday. Bradley said despite the Wednesday and Thursday practices being joint sessions with the Buccaneers, the Jaguars are giving players normally-planned off days for rest and recovery. Hurns' off day Wednesday was such a day, and Bradley said players such as tight end Marcedes Lewis and Posluszny could have similar days off Thursday.