Coach Jack Del Rio drew an immediate line in the sand for player participation in spring OTAs.
"We expect 100 percent participation and we expect the best you can do every day," Del Rio said following the Jaguars' first OTA of the spring. It was conducted without the participation of veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis, who informed Del Rio prior to practice of the intention not to attend. Participation in OTAs, of course, is voluntary.
"Part of being dedicated is making sure you're here and arrive early. We had one guy who decided not to be here today. We're all free to make choices. In the end, our choices lead to consequences. I'm not happy with it. I don't support it," Del Rio said of Mathis' absence.
Del Rio said he wasn't surprised by Mathis' decision not to participate in Monday's OTA, and Del Rio confirmed that it's a contract-based protest. Mathis, apparently, wants to negotiate a new deal.
Another defensive back, safety Reggie Nelson, didn't make it onto the field until practice was a half-hour old. Though Del Rio referred to timeliness in his opening remarks, he later appeared to excuse Nelson's tardiness.
"He had something he was dealing with on the way," Del Rio said.
A practice that was highlighted by quarterback David Garrard's razor-sharp passing was capped by Del Rio's remarks, which continued the all-in demand he launched at defensive tackle John Henderson last spring. Henderson was released by the Jaguars following this year's draft.
"It's a very important time for our football team. It establishes who we're going to be in 2010," Del Rio said. "We want to be known as a team that's relentless in everything we do.
"Anybody who was with us last year returns with a lot of resolve. The bar has been raised. I think you can feel it. You walk into our locker room and I think you get a sense of it," Del Rio added.
Garrard clearly raised the bar for the passing attack with an eye-popping display on Monday. Despite being without the services of number one receiver Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas, who is vying to become the team's number two receiver, Garrard seldom threw incomplete. Sims-Walker and Thomas sat out the practice, along with tight end Zach Miller, as part of a large contingent of players nursing injuries or continuing rehab from surgery.
"I thought David and the receiving corps were sharp today. You can already see the timing in some routes being improved," Del Rio said.
Garrard fired strikes to second-year wide receiver Jarett Dillard on multiple occasions. Backup Luke McCown was also impressive. Even undrafted rookie quarterback Trevor Harris got into the act by dropping a perfect spiral into the hands of wide receiver Tiquan Underwood as he ran down the right sideline. Garrard even mixed in an option pitch to Maurice Jones-Drew.
"The goal we're trying to accomplish is to make decisions faster. We still have some work to do," quarterbacks coach Mike Shula said.
Garrard is the symbol of Del Rio's all-in attitude.
"This is a window of opportunity for us and for him. We have to get over the hump. We have to find a way to get to the playoffs. Our goal is to win the division," Shula added.
Safety Sean Considine made the lone interception and cornerback Scott Starks, in his comeback from knee reconstruction, distinguished himself on a couple of plays. With Mathis absent, cornerbacks Derek Cox and Don Carey and safeties Considine and Gerald Alexander ran with the first-team defense.