Coach Jack Del Rio fielded questions about tight end Kyle Brady's absence and the potential need at tight end, the need for a second wide receiver, for depth on the offensive line and at defensive end, and for a myriad of other concerns on a team with three consecutive losing seasons behind it. Then, Del Rio summoned the enthusiasm that accompanies spring and voluntary workouts.
"It's not unusual for there to be concerns about the talent of the team at this time of the year, and nothing I can say will change your mind until we play that first game next fall," Del Rio told reporters, following today's one-hour "passing camp" workout at Alltel Stadium.
"I'm not in the crystal-ball business. People who are are proven wrong time and again," he added.
The session was the first of this four-day, veterans-only event. All veterans were in attendance, except for Brady, linebacker Keith Mitchell and defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and Larry Smith.
"It's going to be a real casual attitude. It's a lot more teaching, slowing things down, getting questions answered. It's a chance to refine skills a little bit; less evaluation and more teaching," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars' rookie head coach was delighted by his players' attendance and attitude, and was disappointed only that Stroud did not report he would be absent.
"I will address it myself. It's voluntary but we'd like everyone to be here. I'm pleased with the turnout we had," Del Rio said.
"Passing camp" is not to be confused with the high-paced mini-camp the Jaguars concluded on May 4. This week's practices are an easy-does-it event that affords coaches the opportunity to do one-on-one teaching.
The morning practice also afforded reporters the chance to pose questions to Del Rio on a wide range of subjects. For example, Del Rio was asked about the Jaguars' emphasis on the present in free agency vs. the team's eye toward the future in drafting quarterback Byron Leftwich with the seventh pick of the draft. Does that comparison represent a clash in philosophies?
"You're making assumptions based on your thoughts," Del Rio said. "We want to be as competitive as we can be this year. We also will have an eye toward building our team for the future."
Leftwich and the remainder of the Jaguars rookie class are forbidden by a rules agreement between the NFL and the NCAA to attend practices other than mini-camp, until their respective colleges and universities have conducted graduation. The rule is intended to protect rookies enrolled in classes.
"When guys have graduated and they can't be here … that doesn't make much sense," Del Rio said.
Today's workout was the first of 14 voluntary practices each team may conduct before the start of training camp. Del Rio also has three camps planned for June.