JACKSONVILLE – Here. We. Go.
We've waited – patiently at first. We've talked. We've tweeted and tweet-debated. We've analyzed. We've talked and tweeted some more – and waited not-so-patiently for a while, too. Finally, as of Thursday there was no doubt:
The wait is over. The Jaguars' 2014 season?
It's at hand. At last.
Not that EverBank Field hadn't already been abuzz in recent weeks. It very much has. With the state-of-the-art, bigger-than-you-thought-possible, cooler-than-you-imagined video boards being installed, tested and readied in recent weeks – and with the entire stadium being readied for Saturday's Video Board Unveiling/Carrie Underwood Concert/Fulham FC-DC United Friendly – "abuzz" doesn't adequately describe the vibe right now at the 'Bank.
It's downright giddy, folks. This here place is preppin' ready for an EVENT!!, and Saturday merits capital letters and exclamation points.
And as exciting as all of that is, you know what's most exciting?
Football season is back – for real and for the next five months (at least) – and if you didn't know it before you couldn't not feel it Thursday.
The Jaguars will hold their first 2014 Training Camp practice Friday at 9:55 at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. But Thursday was Report Day, the day veterans arrived back in the building. And in NFL circles, no day says, "Here We Go" quite like Report Day.
"Regardless of how many years you've played, coming to camp there's always going to be excitement in the air," veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "You know the season's right around the corner. We're going to get to play live games and that will be here before you know it."
Posluszny spoke to the media Thursday morning, and discussed a bunch of topics. Mostly, he talked about the excitement level around this team, this franchise. It has been a topic for a while, this excitement created by Bradley, and Posluszny said without question there's a different feel this Report Day than last entering Bradley's second season.
"It's much more comfortable with schemes and coaches and how we handle things," Posluszny said. "Just the experience of going through it for a second time, there's a level of familiarity."
Quarterback Chad Henne talked, too, addressing the suspension of second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders, which was announced earlier this week.
"It's unfortunate what's happened, but it's great that he's seeking out help and realizing he does have a problem," Henne said. "We'll definitely be by his side and support him."
Henne and others discussed, too, the news Thursday that wide receiver Justin Blackmon had been arrested Wednesday evening for marijuana possession. There without question is concern for Blackmon in the organization, and the concern is real, but with Blackmon already suspended indefinitely, the incident doesn't change the organization's approach entering camp.
The approach is to continue the progress made under Bradley last season, a season the Jaguars started 0-8 before winning four or five games after a Week 9 bye. The 4-4 finish, combined with what analysts considered a productive offseason, has heightened fans' excitement.
And without question, there's anticipation inside EverBank, too.
"There's definitely a lot of energy in this community, with what (Owner) Shad Khan has done for this organization and Gus and (General Manager) Dave (Caldwell)," Henne said. "But really within this building, it's worrying about what we can do to be the best we can on the field. We feel we're on the right track. There's still work to be done and we're going to go after it."
Bradley's excitement was palpable, too.
"It's great to be back," he said. "You can feel the excitement. I'm really excited about the continued development of our team."
And while it is accurate to say Bradley's excitement is palpable and real all the time, there's a difference in the mood around this Report Day than last year. And therein is the change – the reason for the hope and the excitement and the energy and the buzz at The 'Bank …
This time last year, Bradley still had a monster task ahead of him – i.e., the task of reshaping and establishing the culture of the organization, of the locker room. Bradley will tell you there's a long way to go in that area, that you're never really done.
But he's a lot further down that road, and that makes this an exciting time. The giddy, first-day-of-school feel of Report Day will in the coming days give way to the grind of training camp, and while training camp is no longer about two-a-days and all-pads-all-the-time, it's still football practice and it's still Florida, so there's still a heat and it's still a grind.
But at Jaguars 2014 camp, while the grind will be there, you get the idea there will be something else. The excitement the players discussed Thursday isn't something only they feel. The fans feel it, too, and that excitement has breathed new life into this franchise. You could feel it at every open offseason practice, and at every offseason event where players appeared.
You can feel it when people talk about the video boards, and you can expect to feel it in Saturday night when people see them for the first time. You're going to feel it all around the 'Bank and around the practice fields the next few weeks and months, too.
The excitement is real. The energy is real.
The time for real preparation? The 2014 season? It's at hand. At last.
Here. We. Go.