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Garrard will compete


He's not here just to be another arm at practice. His intent is not to bide time until another team trades for him. David Garrard, in the true spirit of an NFL player, is bent on competing for the starting quarterback job.

"Definitely to compete. That's what everybody is in this league for. If I clearly outshine somebody or if somebody clearly outshines somebody, they should get the playing time they deserve. I'm here to compete because I want to play, but I'm not going to disrupt the locker room," Garrard told as he left the practice field on Wednesday.

It was a day when all three of the Jaguars' veteran quarterbacks looked sharp. Byron Leftwich hit Ernest Wilford with a deep throw down the middle. Quinn Gray threw some sharp sideline passes. Garrard, at his best on one play, stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush, then threw a dart over the middle that hit the receiver right on the thumbs.

That trio of passers makes quarterback the Jaguars' strongest position. Leftwich is the clear-cut starter. Gray is pushing Garrard. Garrard is determined to push Leftwich. It's the way it's supposed to be.

"I'm real comfortable right now," Garrard said, though practice ended for him by having his right foot stepped on by one of his linemen. "I'm excited and I think there are big things ahead for the team this year, and for me as well."

Leftwich controls the situation. He's "The Man." It's his job and if he plays well and stays healthy, no one else will step under center for any reason other than to provide relief. Garrard will, however, push Leftwich to maintain that control.

"Things I can't control I'm not going to worry about. If when I have my chance to play, if I'm playing better than somebody, they should get the playing time they deserve. If I'm playing at the same level as the number one guy, there's nothing you can do about it. It works different at our position," Garrard said.

None of this would be an issue had Leftwich not gotten hurt in week 12 last season and Garrard not led the Jaguars to a 5-1 finish. The big question is: What did Garrard's performance during that 5-1 stretch earn him for this season?

"More respect than I had from the guys and the coaching staff, and the fans. All the rooting they had done for me … I was able to back up all of the cheers," Garrard said.

Has it earned Garrard a harder look from the Jaguars coaching staff? Probably, but quarterback is a sensitive position and coach Jack Del Rio maintains that Leftwich is the team's starting quarterback and there has been no ambivalence in Del Rio's voice when he's stated his position. Del Rio, however, does not discourage competition.

"Competition over time has proven to be the best way to build a championship-level football team; legitimate competition where you have players coming together and being pushed beyond their comfort zone because somebody is breathing down their neck," Del Rio said.

"He proved he could lead us to victory in crucial games. He gained confidence from that and certainly his teammates and coaches gained confidence (in him)," Del Rio added of the effects of Garrard's performance in Leftwich's stead.

As a result of that performance, Garrard has a new attitude this spring.

"Last year, his approach to the offseason was much different than this year. He signed his contract and I think he resigned himself to the backup role and didn't apply himself the way he's applying himself now. He's a man on a mission. He's responding in every way you'd expect a guy to respond who's competing for that spot," Del Rio added.

"I'm satisfied that we got five wins, but I know I can play better than that," Garrard said.

That's exactly what Garrard plans to do.

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