Del Rio praises Leftwich

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Coach Jack Del Rio praised quarterback Byron Leftwich's performance in practice on Wednesday, but that didn't keep Del Rio from being asked about media reports linking the Jaguars to Daunte Culpepper.

"I think Byron is poised to have a big year. That's as sharp as I've seen (him)," Del Rio said of Leftwich following Wednesday's practice. "I'm impressed with Byron's approach. I think it's a good start."

The Dolphins are expected to trade or cut Culpepper, after having traded for Trent Green. "NFL Network" speculated the Jaguars might have interest in Culpepper and Del Rio faced the inevitable question following practice on Wednesday. He was obviously referring to Culpepper when he used the words, "a quarterback south of here.

"You can't talk about players on other teams. We're very thorough in our evaluations of other players in the league. Anything we would do in the way of picking up people would be in a supportive role," Del Rio said.

Leftwich was at his sharpest of the OTA season on Wednesday, a day after he endured what might have been his worst morning of the spring. On Wednesday, Leftwich threw tight spirals in a mid-practice drill. In what was the big play of the practice, Leftwich hit wide receiver Dennis Northcutt in stride deep over the middle. On Tuesday, Leftwich sailed a pass over Northcutt's head on the same route.

"I like what I've seen. I like what Dirk (Koetter) has brought us," Del Rio said of his new offensive coordinator. "I like the spacing (of the wide receivers) and I like the accountability."

The Jaguars have four OTA practices remaining; one on Thursday and three next week. Del Rio made a point of stressing the importance of those four practices and what remains of the time between now and the start of training camp (July 28).

"This is the crunch time of the offseason. I think it's vitally important that our team maximizes its conditioning. This is when you build a foundation," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars would like to resolve their situation with defensive end Bobby McCray by the start of training camp, but Del Rio reported on Wednesday that there has been no movement on that front. The Jaguars have until June 15 to send McCray a letter informing him that the team is lowering his restricted free agent tender to 110 percent of last year's salary, which would drop his salary to $480,000 this year. He was tendered at $1.85 million but has yet to sign that tender.

"He's not here. There's not a lot to add to that. The June 15 date is looming," Del Rio said. "Until we actually send the letter, I'd rather not comment on what we'll do."

The Jaguars practiced with only two healthy defensive ends – Paul Spicer and James Wyche – on Wednesday. Reggie Hayward is making a comeback from Achilles heel surgery and is not participating in practice. Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith said Hayward is on schedule for the start of training camp, but the team won't know the extent of his recovery until he tries to go full speed in training camp.

Rookie wide receiver Mike Walker did not practice on Wednesday. He was given the day off to rest his knee, which underwent ACL surgery in Dec., 2005. Walker was to practice on Thursday.

Meanwhile, veteran defensive tackle Marcus Stroud continues his recovery from ankle surgery, and Stroud's efforts were praised by Del Rio.

"He's a man on a mission. He's really done a great job," Del Rio said.

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