David Garrard says he's on the fast track to recovery, Quinn Gray is ready to make the most of his opportunity and Todd Bouman is planning to lose some sleep. That's an assessment of the Jaguars quarterback situation as the team prepares to begin a critical three-game road stretch of schedule.
"Things are looking good. The swelling is going down. It is not a bad high-ankle sprain," Garrard said of the injury he sustained in the second quarter of Monday's 29-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
"It's just one of those things you have to deal with. I've been playing football for 21 years and this is the first time I've ever missed any time. I've got to start a new streak now," said Garrard, who could miss as many as four games.
That means the position and the Jaguars' playoff hopes have been entrusted to Gray and Bouman, who was signed following a tryout on Wednesday. Bouman signed a one-year contract and linebacker Pat Thomas has been released to make room for Bouman on the active roster.
"You've got to be ready to go. Stay up late, get your nose in the playbook and be ready," Bouman said of how he'll spend the next three days.
"Everything is similar across the league. It's just the terminology (that's different)," he said about learning the Jaguars' offense. "I wasn't drafted so I've worked to get to where I am."
Bouman was helping coach a high school team in suburban Minneapolis when the Jaguars called him on Tuesday. Bouman had played for Jaguars assistant coach Mike Tice when Tice was a Vikings coach.
The Jaguars have to hope Bouman's services won't be needed in Tampa on Sunday. Gray has been with the Jaguars for five seasons and is fully groomed for the role he'll be asked to play on Sunday, even though it will be his first-ever pro start.
"We just want Quinn to focus on the process of being as good as he can be, preparing himself to make the reads and distribute the ball, preparing himself to make checks at the line that we're going to ask him to make, and they'll be reduced some," coach Jack Del Rio said. "We're going to ask him to do his role. We don't need him to shoulder a large part of this; to put the burden on his shoulders and carry this team.
"He's never been a one. Our starter is down and he has to step in and play," Del Rio added of Gray.
"I expect to be able to lead this team up and down the field; put points on the board and, hopefully, come out with a win," Gray told reporters on Thursday. "My dad always taught me that being prepared is the best thing I have."
Gray's father passed away during the preseason. He was a renowned high school coach in South Florida and his dream was to see his son become a starting quarterback in the NFL.
"This team is family. These guys were here for me when my dad passed. I love these guys," he said. "It's been a long time coming. I knew it would come one day. It's an opportunity to show my coaches they made the right decision keeping me here."
Gray was impressive in the first significant playing time of his career, in the second half of the final game of last season. It caused the Jaguars to put a second-round tender on Gray as he headed into restricted free agency. At first, he balked at the tender, but later signed it.
"That's not the issue," he said. "We'll worry about the contract stuff later. When you have an opportunity to show people what you can do, you have to take advantage of it."
The hope is that Gray will do well enough to keep the Jaguars in playoff contention while Garrard recovers from his ankle sprain. Garrard was successful in that role at the same point of the 2006 season, as he led the Jaguars to a 13-6 upset win in Philadelphia. The formula in that game was run a lot, pass a little, which is likely to be the Jaguars' game plan in Tampa.
Gray's last starting assignment was as a senior at Florida A&M against Georgia Southern in a 2001 playoff game.
"He hasn't done it at a high level. He's not a proven commodity but certainly he's shown some flashes, so we're going to find out," Del Rio said.