The soaring temperatures in Jacksonville over the past three days made heat a "hot" topic today.
Cornerback Fernando Bryant did not practice this morning, after being treated at a local hospital for dehydration and heat-related symptoms following yesterday afternoon's practice. That prompted media covering the team to focus on the dangers of practicing on days with triple-digit heat index, which had claimed the life of Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer two weeks ago.
"What would you like us to do? Call camp off?" coach Tom Coughlin said in response to a media question about the dangers of practicing in the heat. "If the doctors think they'll be able to keep their weight, then the doctors decide they should be able to go."
Bryant, a Folkston, Ga., native who played his college football at Alabama, was released from Baptist Medical Center last evening. He had been experiencing dizziness and weakness while he was at dinner. His symptoms were said to have been worsened by the effects of a flu "bug" as many as five Jaguars players are currently battling.
One of those players is defensive end Tony Brackens, a six-year Jaguars veteran from Texas. Brackens told reporters today that the combination of the flu and the heat had made practicing "very difficult, especially early on when you're trying to get into shape. You have to work through it," Brackens said.
"It's part of the job. You can't worry about the heat," Brackens added.
When asked if he would feel comfortable taking himself out of practice if he was experiencing symptoms of over-heating, Brackens said: "I would feel comfortable telling them that, but some guys may not feel comfortable. That's part of how you get your respect on the ballclub; going out onto the field and being accountable."
Making the issue especially topical is the fact that the Jaguars will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9 and the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 23, with each game scheduled to kick off at one p.m. The heat index for those games is likely to be near triple digits.
Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell openly addressed the issue.
"The last three days have been real hot. Everybody is more aware of the importance of hydration and nutrition. The conditions out there are incredibly dangerous," Brunell said.
When asked if enjoying an advantage over a visiting opponent is worth the obvious health risk, Brunell said: "Yes, I think so. We've done it before. The one I can remember is Pittsburgh. It certainly works to our advantage," Brunell said. Then he wavered: "I don't know. That's a tough call. It's given us the edge in a few games, but it is dangerous."
The Jaguars have played 14 home games in September. Five of those have been one o'clock starts: 9-3-95, Houston; 9-1-96, Pittsburgh; 9-8-96, Houston; 9-13-98, Kansas City; 9-17-00, Cincinnati. In '96, the second-year Jaguars upset the defending AFC-champion Steelers.
Coughlin speaks as a coach when he talks of using the heat as an advantage, just as cold-climate teams use the late-season cold as an edge against visiting warm-weather teams. However, Brunell said the advantages are not equal.
"It's harder for a team to come down here and play in the heat than it is for us to go up and play in the cold," Brunell said. He referred to a game last year in Cincinnati on Dec. 17, when the temperature was nine degrees. Brunell said that he didn't feel the cold because his body was being warmed by activity, but, "when it gets hot, it just gets worse and worse and worse," he said.
"Our players adjust to it every year," Coughlin said of the heat. "You learn how to take the proper fluids. This is our geography. This is where we play. We want to take advantage of it."
The Jaguars were to practice this afternoon. They'll travel to New Jersey tomorrow, then play the New York Giants at Giants Stadium Thursday night in what will be each team's second preseason game.
Backup quarterback Jamie Martin practiced this morning and is expected to play against the Giants. Brunell isn't expected to play beyond the first quarter.
In other news, the Jaguars have signed tight end and long-snapper Joe Zelenka, a three-year veteran who had played most recently for the Redskins. Zelenka was the snapper in punting drills this morning. He'll compete with seventh-round pick Randy Chevrier.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.