TIME TO WORK
The work begins Friday, but on Thursday, Jeris Pendleton took a moment to reflect.
Pendleton, the Jaguars' seventh-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, said while getting an NFL opportunity had become more and more of a reality in recent months, there was a time Thursday he fully realized that dream was actually coming true.
"From the time I got picked in the draft, it still hadn't really hit me," Pendleton said late Thursday afternoon as he and other rookies and tryout veterans prepared for this weekend's rookie mini-camp at EverBank Field.
"As I was walking through the door I was like, 'It's time to put in some work now.'''
Pendleton, a 28-year-old defensive tackle from Ashland University, was one of the better human interest stories of draft weekend, and upon being drafted Saturday he talked about his decision to return to college four years ago.
He talked about it again Thursday, recounting how "things went south" after high school. After being recruited by Michigan State among others, he opted to not attend college following the birth of his first son, Jeris, Jr.
To support his son and his fiancé, he first worked two and a half years at a nursing home, then worked HVAC for a year and a half. He worked hospital security after that, but when he and his fiancé had a second son and he was still making less than $20,000 a year, he decided to return to school.
"I always wanted to go back and play ball," Pendleton said, adding that his mistake in high school was "I always was thinking of the Plan A, that by being so good I was going to the NFL. When I needed the plan B, it wasn't there."
Pendleton said when his second son was born, "Now, reality set in. It was like, 'Now you've got to do something."
Now, while being drafted was "a dream come true," he said his focus isn't on dreaming.
"I'm pushing for that 53-man roster," he said.
Josh McGregor has been here before, but at the same time, he hasn't.
McGregor, a quarterback from Jacksonville University, is attending mini-camp camp as a workout rookie, and said while he has overcome odds before, this situation is a little different.
"I've always had to start at the bottom and work my way up," McGregor said Thursday afternoon. "That's the same thing here. It's going to be an exciting weekend."
McGregor is one of three quarterbacks in camp on a tryout basis, with the others being former West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown and Jordan Palmer, who spent 2008-2010 as a reserve with the Cincinnati Bengals.
McGregor said it's his understanding that the Jaguars will keep one of those quarterbacks on the regular roster to compete this off-season with Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and Dan LeFevour.
"That'd be an awesome accomplishment if I could do that," he said.
If he doesn't, he is scheduled to fly to Seattle next weekend to try out for the Seahawks.
"I'm hoping I can stay here and make this team," he said. "It's probably the biggest weekend of my life. Hopefully, I get a chance to be that last guy."
Palmer spent three years in Cincinnati, being released last preseason after sustaining an ankle injury in preseason.
The release came after Palmer helped organized the Bengals' players-only workouts during the off-season. He spent last season out of football.
"It was the first year I've watched games since I was a kid," he said. "It was tough."
Asked about trying to make the roster as a workout invitee, he said, "It's the nature of the beast. It's become who I am. I've kind of been clawing my way in."
Palmer, who in Cincinnati was a reserve behind his brother, former No. 1 overall selection Carson Palmer, said when it comes to perspective on the NFL, "I have both sides of the spectrum covered."
Palmer said he believes he is capable of being an NFL starter, and he said having prepared as a starter on multiple occasions during his time with the Bengals only to have the starter be able to play on Sunday, only enhanced that belief.
As for what happens with the Jaguars if he performs well this weekend, he said, "Right now, I have three days of practice in front of me. I'll call my agent on Sunday and see what he's hearing."
WHAT PENDLETON SAYS
"I can stuff gaps."
WHAT PALMER SAYS
"Any opportunity is a great opportunity. I've seen guys make it through darker tunnels than this."
WHAT FIFTH-ROUND LINEBACKER BRANDON MARSHALL SAYS
"I just hope to get a grasp of what kind of defense they play here (during rookie mini-camp), and what they expect out of the linebackers. I want to learn and also turn some heads."
WHAT ROOKIE DEFENSIVE END ANDRE BRANCH SAYS
"(Jacksonville) feels like home. That's my first impression—it feels like home."
WHAT McGREGOR SAYS
"I'm not used to getting that stuff, the (Jaguars-issued) workout gear. It's something different than what I'm used to (playing for Jacksonville University)."
The 50 players expected to participate his weekend – six drafted players, 17 undrafted free agents and 27 workout invitees – spent Thursday getting physicals in preparation for Friday's start of mini-camp. The team is scheduled to hold one practice Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday. The practices are at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field and closed to the public.
We'll have more on jaguars.com Friday on center Mike Brewster, but the first impression is this is a guy who may be something more than an undrafted free agent. Brewster was an All-America as a junior at Ohio State, and considered declaring for the NFL Draft following the 2010 season. Projected by many analysts as a third- to fourth-round selection, he went undrafted. NFL analyst Pat Kirwan ranked him as the No. 1 undrafted player in this year's class. Brewster, who played at Orlando Edgewater High School, said he developed a relationship with Jaguars offensive line coach Andy Heck before the draft and hoped by the sixth round he wouldn't get drafted so he could sign with Jacksonville. With Jaguars center Brad Meester entering his 13th season, a huge story during training camp will be whether Brewster can beat out veteran John Estes to emerge as the player in line to become the team's center of the future.
*With the release on Thursday of veteran cornerback Drew Coleman, the Jaguars now have nine veteran cornerbacks on the roster along with four rookies. Speculation began immediately about who could fill Coleman's role at nickel back, a position he played in all 16 games last season with four starts. One possibility is rookie cornerback Mike Harris, a sixth-round selection in last weekend's draft from Florida State. "That's something I did for two years at Florida State," he said. "Wherever I can play to help this team win."
*Branch, a second-round selection last weekend, said he's looking forward to playing for Jaguars line coach Joe Cullen. And while Cullen has a reputation for being a tough coach – and for being something of a yeller during practice – Branch said he has some idea of what to expect. "He worked me out at my Pro Day, so I got a little bit of it," Branch said, adding, "Hopefully, we'll keep gaining respect for each other. I have the utmost respect for Coach Cullen."
*Marshall said he didn't know much about the Jaguars before being selected Saturday. His perspective on one of his few Jaguars memories changed somewhat last weekend. Marshall said he grew up a Broncos fan, and recalls vividly the Jaguars' upset victory over Denver in the playoffs following the 1996 season. "I was pretty upset," Marshall said. "That's been my team for a while, but now the Jaguars are my team."