To David Garrard, it is about class.
Garrard, the Jaguars' 10-year veteran quarterback, said Wednesday his approach to a potentially difficult, awkward situation is based on how he would want to be treated. Because the way he sees it, he has a choice.
He could treat Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft – and not insignificantly a player many believe someday will move into Garrard's job – like competition. He could be petty, standoffish and selfish. Or, he could help the kid.
Garrard has chosen the latter, and when he spoke with the media on Wednesday – the day the Jaguars reported for 2011 training camp – he said it's really about doing what's right.
"I know there are kids who are thinking when they get into high school and someone else challenges them for their jobs, 'What are they going to do?''' Garrard said Wednesday during a late morning press conference at EverBank Field.
"Are they going to leave that school and go to a different school and bad-mouth that kid to try to get their place on the team? Or are they going to work hard, be a good teammate and do everything they can to make sure they're getting better and their team is getting better?"
From all accounts, Garrard has chosen the latter.
Gabbert, who spent time at EverBank Tuesday but can't return until he signs a contract, moved to Jacksonville last month, and participated in the team's voluntary workouts. Garrard not only has been cordial to the rookie, he lent Gabbert and wide receiver Cecil Shorts a car because the duo was too young to rent one.
Make no mistake:
While Garrard is the Jaguars' starter entering training camp – and while barring injury he is likely to hold that position much or all of this season – Gabbert is the quarterback of the future. You don't draft a quarterback No. 10 overall if that's not the case. When that future will happen isn't certain, and will depend on Gabbert's development.
Still, Garrard said he can't see a reason not to help the younger player.
"If just my little bit of teaching that I can do to help Blaine be a better quarterback – if that makes him better than me – you're going to play the best person," Garrard said. "That's just something I have to deal with it.
"Just as a Christian man, too, it's the right thing to do. I'm not saying, 'Go out there and take my job.' I'm just saying, 'This is how you play quarterback. This is our system.' It's just being a teammate. If you think about it, it's just being a teammate."
Garrard's theme on Wednesday focused less on Gabbert and more on his excitement about the upcoming season. The Jaguars, he believes, should be improved offensively and as a team this season. The offense has run the same system for four seasons, and Garrard said his experience should help as the team prepares for the regular season in the wake of an off-season without mini-camps or organized team activities. The lockout eliminated those off-season staples, but Garrard said the off-season may have provided unanticipated benefit.
"It was awesome to see the way everybody rallied around one another," Garrard said. "Guys really stepped up and said, 'You know what? We're going to take our guys and we're going to work each group out and make sure we're doing our job, then we're going to come together at some point as a team and do some team-work and team-building workouts."
Garrard said the way players worked out on their own, working out at YMCAs and local high school fields, then spending time together afterward, helped camaraderie.
"It really was great for the team," he said. "Everybody really learned more about each other than what you knew about each other before."
Garrard on Wednesday spoke like a quarterback ready to lead a team, and to be a starter, because that's what he is. And while it's uncertain how long that will last, what's not uncertain is when it comes to a potentially difficult situation, it would be hard to approach it in a classier way.
"Really, for me, I believe you're going to have competition always," Garrard said. "I think that's healthy. It's a healthy part of the game. I have a son. I know there are a lot of kids out there watching. I've said this before: 'I was a kid at one time who looked up to a lot of NFL players; some who went on to having terrible off-field lives and some who are great role models.'
"For me, I want to be able to show that you don't have to be standoffish starting quarterback when there is a new guy on the team. You can help that guy, because I really believe the best guy is going to play."