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Decision time

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And while the Jaguars' rookie quarterback had been working to hear that news for seven weeks – and in a very real sense much, much longer – he said on the surface things didn't change.

"Business carried on as usual," Gabbert said.

Except for one small thing:

He's now one of 32 people who start at quarterback in the NFL.

Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft and a player expected to be the franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future, on Wednesday was named the Jaguars' starting quarterback, replacing veteran Luke McCown, who started the first two games of the season.

"That decision has been made," Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said as the Jaguars (1-1) prepared to play the Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday at 1 p.m.

"Blaine will be the starting quarterback."

The Jaguars moved McCown into the role 15 days ago, the same day they released veteran David Garrard, who had been the team's starter from 2007-2010. At the time, Del Rio said McCown was told while he was the starter, "there was a talented young guy he was going to have to hold off -- and he was going to have to play well to do that."

"Obviously when you look at it, everybody sitting in this room knew, there was going to be a transition at some point," Del Rio said. "It's time. It's time for Blaine to play and be our starting quarterback. . . .

"As a team, we're kind of ready to get going."

Jaguars players Wednesday talked about Gabbert's demeanor and confidence, and Del Rio said Gabbert carries himself like an NFL quarterback and a leader.

"He's really been a star quarterback all of his life," Del Rio said. "That's what he has been. He has a chance to be a franchise-type quarterback, and he's getting that opportunity now – to be our starting quarterback and to become that guy."

Said Gabbert, ""I think you get confidence from how well you prepare, and the way we prepare here I think gives everybody confidence on this football team because of the amount of time and effort we put in on our off days."

Gabbert replaced McCown this past Sunday after McCown completed 6 of 19 passes for 59 yards and no touchdowns with four interceptions in a 32-3 loss to the New York Jets. Gabbert played the fourth quarter, completing 5 of 6 passes for 52 yards.

Del Rio did not immediately name a starter, telling players of the move when they arrived at the facility Wednesday.

"I guess it's the nature of the business," Gabbert said. "I'm not really surprised. You've got to be ready to play when your name is called. That's how I've prepared and that was my mindset."

Del Rio, who said Gabbert may have started the regular-season opener had it not been for a truncated off-season because of the lockout, said Gabbert has impressed from early on with the Jaguars.

"One of the first throws he made in camp, people looked around and said, 'That guy has legitimate talent,''' Del Rio said. "You could see it. There's a little freshness to it. There is big upside, potential."

Del Rio said the Jaguars are a good team with a good defense and good running game and good special teams. He said the expectations for the season have not changed based on Wednesday's move.

"We know we have a good football team," Del Rio said. "We need more. We need a spark in our passing game. We think Blaine can help us get that."

Gabbert said he doesn't expect the game plan to change, or to be simplified because of his status as a rookie.

"We've prepared for this day all along," Gabbert said. "We didn't slow down the installation process or anything like that, so I feel very comfortable. I know what's going on. Our game plan isn't going to change. . . . I feel really ready. I've been preparing for this moment since I got to training camp, learning the offense and getting comfortable with the team. I feel very comfortable.

"Everybody knows we're going to run MoJo [Maurice Jones-Drew]. I think he's the best running back in the NFL and we have a great offensive line to run behind, but our game plan isn't going to change because I'm in there. We're going to run the ball and throw the ball."

Del Rio said offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter "will grow the offense around this young man's talents and the talents of his teammates."

"We'll grow the package as we grow through the year," Del Rio said.

While Gabbert's development is key for the future of the franchise, he said his concern is "focused on winning."

"I'm not really worried about the long-term process," Gabbert said. "It's a week-to-week deal in the NFL. You face great teams week in and week out, so you really can't worry about anything else. You've got to focus on Carolina this week and prepare the best you can.

"It's a week-to-week process. You learn more after every week. You get into a routine. You start to pick up on different things. You watch film; I guess you're a little more detailed when you watch it. I've definitely gotten better as a quarterback in the last two weeks."

Gabbert said while there are expectations inherent with the starting quarterback position, such things are part of the job description.

 "Being the starting quarterback is an extremely important part to this team," Gabbert said. "You run the offense. You're expected to put up points and you're expected to execute at a high level play-in and play-out, week-in and week-out. I know that's my responsibility and I guess some people can look at that as a burden, but that thought doesn't cross my mind one bit.

"I look at as an opportunity to go out there and really just have fun. Playing professional football is pretty tough to beat."

In other Jaguars news Wednesday:

*Safety Dwight Lowery, acquired in a trade from the Jets two days after the preseason finale, worked with the first-team defense Wednesday, replacing Courtney Greene at free safety. "He's more of a free," Del Rio said of Lowery. "That's why we got him. He's been working his way into our defense." Del Rio said Greene ideally is a strong safety who has been "doing a good job over there playing somewhat out of position. We're going to move on and play Lowery."

*Cornerback Derek Cox returned to practice on a full-participation basis. Cox missed Week 2 with a chest injury. "I feel good," Cox said. "My wind was fine today. I was breathing good – no complaints. You can never exactly gauge the healing process."

*Right tackle Eben Britton practiced on a full-participation basis after playing a part-time role as a blocking tight end this past Sunday. He missed the regular-season opener with a back injury and Del Rio said earlier this week he hopes Britton can return to the lineup against Carolina.

*Tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) and wide receiver Jason Hill (hip) returned to practice in a limited capacity. "I remain hopeful for all of those guys," Del Rio said. "I think all of those guys should be available. It's a good start to the week." 

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