David Garrard's battle against Crohn's Disease appears to be headed toward surgery. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio informed reporters of that possibility, following this morning's opening practice of the team's spring passing camp.
"It looks like surgery may be an option and he's working through that with his family and doctors. He appears to be headed toward surgery," Del Rio said of Garrard, who was absent from practice today.
Garrard, a fourth-round draft choice from East Carolina in 2002, was diagnosed this past March to have Crohn's Disease, an incurable intestinal disorder that manifests itself in inflammation of the colon. It is treated with anti-inflammatory medicines and Garrard thought his situation to have been brought under control in late April, when the team conducted its post-draft mini-camp. Garrard participated in mini-camp drills on a limited basis, then remained with the team for conditioning drills.
"He had another episode this past weekend," Del Rio said of the Jaguars backup quarterback.
Garrard had to be hospitalized in late March following a Crohn's attack that caused him to lose several pounds.
"We feel good about the guys who are here. Doug Johnson has had some good moments and we believe Quinn Gray is a good young prospect. We feel good about it, but not as good as we'd feel if David was here," Del Rio said.
When asked what Garrard's prognosis would be if he undergoes surgery, Del Rio said: "In all likelihood … he'd be fine for training camp, but as a coach I have to step back. When he's ready to re-join us, we'll be happy to have him back."
First-round draft pick Reggie Williams was the other noticeable absentee this morning. Williams will miss all but the final week of passing camp, as a result of an NFL rule that forbids rookies to attend team practices (other than mini-camp) before their college class graduates. The University of Washington's graduation ceremonies are late in the school year. Even though Williams is no longer attending class at Washington, the NFL rule still applies. Most other rookies were in attendance this morning.
Veteran safety Donovin Darius made his first on-field appearance. Del Rio had requested Darius not join the team on the field until he was ready to commit to full attendance. Darius complied with that request for mini-camp, but joined the team's offseason conditioning program at the beginning of last week.
"Donovin and I put that to rest a week ago. Donovin told me he's at peace with the situation," Del Rio said, referring to Darius' previous disappointment at having been designated the team's "franchise" player for the second consecutive year.
The Jaguars will have a passing camp practice tomorrow morning, three veteran camp practices next week, three passing camp practices during the first week of June, then three veteran camp practices during each of the second and third weeks of June. At that point, players and coaches will vacation before the start of training camp in late July.
Del Rio said emphasis is greatest on improving the team's turnover margin, third-down defense and the kicking game. The Jaguars were minus-four in turnover differential last season, and were 31st in third-down defense and 32nd in field goal accuracy. The team's fourth-worst 24 sacks was a contributor to the problem on third down.
"Julius Peppers did not walk in the door. That did not happen for us," Del Rio said of the team's desperate need at the defensive end position. "We'll be creative. (Defensive coordinator) Mike Smith and I and the rest of the defensive staff will work on ways and 'Shack' (personnel director James Harris) will look around the country. We'll look at everybody," Del Rio said.
Despite last year's deficiencies and the team's 5-11 record, several "experts" are forecasting high times for the Jaguars this season. One recent forecast even put the Jaguars in the Super Bowl.
"People are taking notice, but talk at this time of the year has very little to do with who plays well in the fall. Other than for the excitement it has for our fans, it has no bearing on our football team and where it will finish," Del Rio said of offseason praise.