Blaine Gabbert's first NFL game will be his first NFL start.
While David Garrard is expected to make the trip to the preseason opener, Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said Tuesday Garrard – the team's starting quarterback since 2007 – almost certainly will not play because of a back injury.
That means the start will go to Gabbert, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
"It's going to be fun," Gabbert said Tuesday as the Jaguars prepared for the 2011 preseason opener against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Gabbert, speaking with the media shortly after Tuesday morning's practice, said he didn't know if he would start or not, and said he was looking forward to his first NFL playing time.
He also emphasized that the starting job was still Garrard's and said a starter can't lose his job because of injury.
"I'm just going out there looking to improve," Gabbert said. "Those reps are going to be extremely valuable on film, after the game, just to kind of see what was going on. It will be the first live game I've been in in this league. It will be fun. There will be mistakes made. We just have to learn from those and correct them the next week."
Del Rio shortly thereafter said he doubted Garrard would play Thursday and that if he didn't, Gabbert would be the starter.
"It will be great exposure for him," Del Rio said. "He's off to a good start in camp. We've got a lot to do yet. His attitude has been great. He's picking things up and making progress. We just need to continue to work at it."
Garrard sustained a back injury Thursday in practice, and has not practiced since.
"I don't anticipate – unless he feels a whole lot better and can do something tonight – that we would put him into action Thursday night," Del Rio said, and added later that he expected Garrard to be ready to practice next week and play in the second preseason game against Atlanta August 19.
With Garrard likely out, Gabbert starting and reserve Luke McCown playing the backup role, the Jaguars on Tuesday also re-signed veteran quarterback Todd Bouman.
Bouman, 39, has signed with the Jaguars four previous times, with the last time being last season, when he started a loss at Kansas City, throwing two touchdown passes and two interceptions. That was his only regular-season appearance last season, though he spent Weeks 3, 4, 7, 8, 15, 16 and 17 on the active roster.
When the Jaguars signed Bouman last season, he was working on his farm driving a tractor.
"We actually made a call to the tractor again," Del Rio said today, laughing. "He's a great guy and a good veteran player. He'll be able to come in, pick it up and help us perform throughout the preseason. We'll see from there."
Del Rio said he has confidence Bouman can operate the offense if needed Thursday.
"We're going to try not to overdo it, but he'll be available," Del Rio said, adding that the Jaguars likely will split most of the snaps between Gabbert and McCown.
Del Rio said if it were a regular-season game Garrard likely would be able to play.
"We do have a lot of players in camp and the ability to back him down a little bit and make sure that settles down," Del Rio said.
Gabbert has worked extensively with the starters in Garrard's absence, something Gabbert said he believes beneficial.
"The ones' speed is different," Gabbert said. "You're going against starting NFL players. You just have to be on top of your game, know the protections and know the concepts, know where to get the ball out if they do blitz. . . .
"It's a constant learning process. I've been here nine days. I'm learning every day and I'm making new mistakes every day. I just have to learn and get better and come out the next day and play football. . . . I'm just going to go out there and execute the offense.
"That's all you can really ask for: get first downs, move the chains and points will come with that."
Gabbert practiced on Monday and Tuesday with a brace on his left knee, something he said Tuesday was precautionary. He said he does not have a history of knee issues.
"It's all precaution," he said. "It's kind of a trend in the NFL right now, because the piles do come back. There's a lot of rollups. You've seen it with Carson Palmer, Tom Brady – a bunch of the guys have had that happen. Coach Del Rio thought it would be the best idea."
Del Rio on Tuesday also said running back Maurice Jones-Drew and defensive end Aaron Kampman won't travel to New England, and that tight end Marcedes Lewis will travel but won't play.