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Dose of reality


The reality is there. It is today, and certainly will be tomorrow.

As Jamar Newsome sees it, and this goes for most of the rookies fighting for one of the final spots on the Jaguars' roster, the best way to approach that reality is to not dwell on it.

The coming days may or not be their last with the Jaguars, but as Newsome and other little-known Jaguars rookies and young players prepare for the fourth and final preseason game, they figure there's not much to be gained from such thinking. Not when at least one opportunity remains.

"I focus more on things I can control," Newsome, a wide receiver from Central Florida, said this week as the Jaguars (1-2) prepared to play the St. Louis Rams (3-0) in the 2011 preseason finale at EverBank Field Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm just going to go out and play as hard as I can and as fast as I can. That decision, whether they choose to keep me on the team or not, it's not up to me. I'm confident in myself that I'm going to go out and just play free, just enjoy myself."

The Jaguars' preseason finale will have several storylines. Among them are the return of defensive end Aaron Kampman and Maurice Jones-Drew, but those players and the starters likely won't play more than 10-15 plays.

After that, it's evaluation time, which means a critical time for nearly half the 80 players remaining on the roster. By Saturday at 4 p.m., that number will be 53.

Newsome, who signed as a rookie free agent days before Jaguars 2011 Training Camp began, is one of 22 rookies in the Jaguars roster. About 17 of those players arrived as he did, joining the team among a frenzied flurry of phone calls shortly after the NFL lockout ended.

The good news for those players was they had their NFL opportunity.

The bad? That whereas in a normal, non-lockout NFL season they would have signed in late April, and had mini-camps and a normal off-season to prepare for training camp and have their new team get a feel for their abilities, this season that process has taken place in a little more than a month.

"We can't spend a lot of time worrying about how it hurt or didn't hurt or effect it or didn't affect, but the time that some of the young guys would have typically had has been shortened," Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "That's just the way it is."

The Jaguars since Gene Smith took over as general manager in 2009 have placed a priority on signing and developing undrafted free agents. Linebacker Russell Allen made the roster in 2009 as an undrafted rookie, and linebacker Jacob Cutrera and defensive end Aaron Morgan made it as undrafted rookies last season.

Del Rio was asked this week if the shortened evaluation time made it more unlikely that an undrafted rookie would make the active roster.

"Not necessarily," he said. "I think we'll just see how it plays out."

Del Rio on Tuesday talked of the sense of urgency among rookies, and spoke of the task of facing coaches and personnel officials trimming the roster to the final 53.

"I would say Thursday night will be a late night," he said.

And a long, stressful one for not only Newsome, but fellow rookie free-agent wide receivers Dontrelle Inman and Armon Binns and the other free-agent rookies. Inman, Newsome and Binns all have impressed at times in camp, but with Mike Thomas, Jason Hill, Cecil Shorts, Jarett Dillard and Kassim Osgood on the roster, rosters spots at the receiver position for undrafted rookies will be uncertain.

One may make the roster, and one or two of the others could make the practice squad, but such decisions are also based on needs and numbers at other positions. That creates unknown and uncertainty for young players with careers and dreams at stake.

"The best way to approach that situation is to not even think about it," said Inman, who has three receptions for 60 yards this preseason after catching 51 passes for 815 yards and three touchdowns for Virginia last season.

"You just have to go out, be yourself and every time you get an opportunity to catch the ball, catch it. Anytime you get an opportunity to make a play, whether it's blocking, catching or if it's tackling on special teams, it doesn't matter, you have to go out and do it.

"What it all boils down to is it's just football. I've been playing since the third or fourth grade. The only thing that has changed is the age. You're going to make mistakes, you just have to try to limit your mistakes. In a game, something's bound to happen. You have to be able to bounce back as fast as you can and go on to the next play. You think about anything else, you're not doing your job."

Binns, who caught 75 passes for 1,101 yards and 10 touchdowns at Cincinnati last season, has caught two passes for 20 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games.

"I just take it as another opportunity," Binns said of the preseason finale. "The way I see it, I have one chance to make my best impression and do whatever I can to show coaches I can help this team. You just have to play. Take it for what it is.

"The only thing guaranteed is to play in this game, so I have to take every snap as if it's my last."

Newsome said to look at it any other way is to focus on the wrong thing, something he doesn't plan to do with his one opportunity remaining.

 "That's how you have to look at it," said Newsome, who has two receptions for 35 yards in the preseason after catching 37 passes for 616 yards and three touchdowns last season at UCF. "If you get focused on the cuts and everything else, you take your mindset off the game. I promised myself I wouldn't allow myself to do that.

"I'm just concentrating on the things I can control, and just going out there playing fast and free."

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