The last time David Garrard was in Kansas City, his career took a turn for the worst. He was benched after having thrown an interception that was returned to the two-yard line, and he was being blamed for a three-game losing streak that left the Jaguars out of the playoffs.
That was a little more than nine months ago. Since then, Garrard has reclaimed the starting quarterback job, shot his career stock skyward and will return to Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday as one of the NFL's top-ranked quarterbacks.
"You go from the low of lows to the high of highs. It lets you know and your teammates and the community know that no matter how bad things get, you can get through them," Garrard said on Wednesday, as the Jaguars began preparations for this Sunday's game against the 2-2 Chiefs.
Every Jaguars fan knows of Garrard's journey from there to here. It's only fitting that a return to Kansas City should punctuate it.
"It was definitely a tough time for me because I had never been pulled out of a game before in my life. It made me a better quarterback. It made me look back on a lot of the good things. It was a pretty decent run. Don't dwell on mistakes, just learn from them," Garrard said of what he took from that 2006 season finale.
Nothing was at stake for the Jaguars in that game. They had already been eliminated from playoff contention. This Sunday's game, on the other hand, is a game of major importance for both teams.
The Chiefs are tied with Denver and Oakland for the AFC West lead. The Jaguars, 2-1, are coming off a win in Denver and a bye week and need a win to keep pace with Tennessee and Indianapolis in the AFC South.
"Coach did a good job of keeping us ready to go. This team is ready," Garrard said of the Jaguars, who are 1-3 the last four years in games immediately following the bye week.
"We take everybody seriously. We stumble at times but I know this week isn't going to be one of those cases," Garrard added.
"You're either going to hop on that team's (butt) because you're fresh, or you won't wake up until halftime. We're coming out fast," running back Fred Taylor promised.
The Jaguars used the bye week to get healthy. Linebacker Clint Ingram said he's ready to play for the first time since sustaining a severe high-ankle sprain in the preseason opener, and coach Jack Del Rio said center Brad Meester would return to practice in a limited capacity. Meester won't play in Kansas City but he's nearing a return from his training camp broken ankle.
Kicker Josh Scobee is the only Jaguars player who didn't make progress during the bye week. "He may be a while," Del Rio said. "Until he can kick in practice, he's out."
Scobee attempted to kick in Monday's practice. "He hit one ball. That was the end of that," Del Rio said.
Del Rio addressed offensive tackle Khalif Barnes' recent brush with the law. Barnes is said to have wrecked his car into a tree, then left the scene before notifying the police. He has been cited for leaving the scene of an accident and for wreckless driving.
"It's disappointing for me to field questions that have anything to do with any topic but the Kansas City Chiefs. I don't have anything to add to the story. There are a couple of citations that have been issued. He has to deal with that," Del Rio said.
He was asked if he'll activate wide receiver Matt Jones for this Sunday's game and responded in this way: "I love what I do and I love my players. I think this whole thing has been overblown. His job is to play. My job is to coach. He's working hard and I'm working hard. He's going to be a good football player for us. I think it's grown into something more than it was."
Jones was deactivated for the game in Denver, a week that began with Del Rio expressing dissatisfaction with Jones' effort.
Del Rio also began the week of the Denver game by challenging his players to pass what he termed an "early-season test," which they did. Taylor said Del Rio began this week by challenging his players to do the same against the Chiefs.
"I only put forth the truth. The Chiefs are who we're going to be challenged by," Del Rio said.