It's the most important season of David Garrard's and Rashean Mathis' careers and the way they play in 2010 will likely determine the two players' futures with the Jaguars.
Mathis, the team's star cornerback since he emerged in that role as a rookie in 2003, wants to finish his career in his hometown. For that to happen, he needs another contract, and a strong performance in 2010 is the best way to get a new deal from the Jaguars.
"I want to finish my career here. It was all about extending my longevity in Jacksonville," Mathis told reporters as he explained his absence from this past spring's OTAs.
Mathis reported on Thursday for the start of training camp, leaving first-round draft pick Tyson Alualu as the only Jaguars player unsigned and absent.
"I'm 100 percent right now. I know when I'm healthy I can play football. If I stay healthy, I know it'll be a great year. I worked out as hard as I've ever worked out," Mathis added.
His absence in the spring was intended to deliver the message that he wants a new contract. Mathis has two years remaining on his current contract. He knows what it'll take to get a new one.
"There are no hard feelings. My heart has always been with the Jaguars and it'll always be with the Jaguars," Mathis said.
Garrard is facing a similar show-me kind of season. The Jaguars are likely to pick their quarterback of the future in next year's draft, expected to be one of the strongest quarterback drafts in recent history. How soon the Jaguars step into the future will likely be determined by how well Garrard plays in 2010.
He was challenged by head coach Jack Del Rio and team owner Wayne Weaver at the end of last season to dedicate himself more fully in 2010. It was criticism some men might've rejected. Garrard embraced it.
"It let me know how everybody felt. As a man, you have to be able to step up. Are you going to run away or accept the challenge? I listened to every last one of them. I want to be able to lead this team to a championship, but it has to be everybody bought in, not just me. What I have to do is make other players better around me," Garrard said.
His effort in the offseason was praised by Del Rio, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Garrard's teammates. The offseason, however, ended on Thursday. Training camp, the start of show-me time, begins on Friday.
"This team has a different vibe. There are guys that are going to be here early and be here late. They all have the mindset of why not us?" Garrard said.
"We have to show everyone that this is a different team," middle linebacker Kirk Morrison said.