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Garrard's summer, too


His bout with Crohn's Disease, at least for now, is behind him. David Garrard has regained the weight and the strength he lost last spring, and he says he's fully recovered from the June surgery that removed a significant portion of his large intestine.

Football is the issue, again, in Garrard's life. More specifically, his future in football is Garrard's foremost concern.

"Physically fine; feeling great. I don't even feel like I had surgery," Garrard said following this morning's practice, the fifth such not-full-pads workout of training camp.

It wouldn't be accurate to say Garrard is on top of his game. He's been a little scatter-armed through the first three days of camp; not as quick on his feet as he was before his medical emergency.

"Sometimes when I need my arm and legs to work together, sometimes they're on their own," he admitted.

But no quarterback on this team has a stronger arm. Nobody is as much of a threat outside the pocket as Garrard is. Simply put, Garrard is the best athlete among the four quarterbacks in this camp, and that fact has not been lost on the rest of the league.

This is the summer that could determine Garrard's future in professional football. He has two years remaining on his current contract, which means the Jaguars will probably attempt to recoup value for Garrard in a trade, probably prior to next April's draft. The degree to which another team will be interested in trading for Garrard will be significantly impacted by his performance in this summer's preseason, which begins in less than two weeks.

"Prove I can play and prove I'll be around to play," Garrard said of what he must accomplish to interest a team in making him their future at the quarterback position. "I can't do anything about the Crohn's, except to pray and try to keep it in check. It's in check now."

These are tough times for Garrard. He's a young quarterback who, when he was drafted by the Jaguars two years ago, thought he was the team's future at the position. Then, last year, he watched the job fall to Byron Leftwich. Now, the Jaguars are being described as "Byron's team."

What does Garrard do? How does he react?

"The only way to approach that situation is to understand he has no control over fate. He only has control over what he'll do when he has the opportunity (to play)," coach Jack Del Rio said. "But if you don't prepare for that opportunity, then you will have wasted the opportunity."

Garrard will have multiple opportunities this summer. The Jaguars certainly aren't going to expose Leftwich more than necessary, but they have every reason to showcase Garrard. At this stage of his career and given the circumstances of the Jaguars' future at quarterback, Garrard is, quite frankly, trade bait.

"I just have to do my job. Whatever I'm asked to do, I have to do. I can't be disgruntled. That's not going to help me. When I get a chance to play, show my talent; show that somebody out there needs me," Garrard said.

It worked for Rob Johnson. The Buffalo Bills traded first and fourth-round picks to the Jaguars for Johnson in 1998, on the strength of two performances by Johnson in 1997: a preseason game against San Francisco and the season-opener in Baltimore.

Garrard's talents are already known. Tampa Bay coach John Gruden has made several complimentary remarks, which were interpreted to mean Gruden would be interested in striking a deal for Garrard. And the Jaguars received trade offers from other teams prior to last year's draft.

What impact will the Crohn's diagnosis have on Garrard's stock? Crohn's is an incurable illness, although its symptoms are manageable.

Proving that Garrard can manage his health problem will also be important in persuading a team to trade for him. He doesn't want to be a backup. He wants another team to invest in him for the purpose of making him "The Man."

"It made me want it more," Garrard said of missing spring drills while he battled the effects of Crohn's. "It's really true what they say: Play every day and every play like it's your last."

What he wants most is a team to call his own. This summer could go a long way toward achieving that goal.

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