The Jaguars aren't taking Cecil Shorts' situation lightly. Neither is Shorts.
Shorts, the Jaguars' leading receiver this season, missed a loss to the Jets this past Sunday with a concussion and while he returned to practice Wednesday, Head Coach Mike Mularkey said the plan was for the team to be cautious during his return.
Shorts said while he wants to play, the reality of concussions and concern over long-term effects also is a factor. He said he has spoken with Jaguars wide receiver Laurent Robinson, now on injured reserve after four concussion-related incidents since training camp.
"He (Robinson) told me to take my time, don't rush back," Shorts said Wednesday as the Jaguars (2-11) prepared to play the Miami Dolphins (5-8) at Sun Life Stadium in Davie, Fla., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"He (Robinson) said he's an example. He said, 'Clint Session is an example.'''
Session, a linebacker who signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2011, sustained two concussions last season, and was unable to play this season. The team released him last week.
"It's no joke," Shorts said. "People talk about concussions and you're like, 'OK, whatever.' When you get one, and the headaches come and the sensitivity to light . . . it's no joke."
Shorts said he wants to finish the season strong, most importantly as a team, but also individually. He has caught 43 passes for 824 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and can become the Jaguars' first 1,000-yard receiver since Jimmy Smith in 2005.
"It's definitely a goal," Shorts said. "The most important thing so to go out and help this team. If 1,000 goes along with it, that's fine. You got to finish strong just to be ready to go for next year."
With Mike Brewster on injured reserve, the starter at left guard Sunday remains uncertain.
Eben Britton, a starter at right tackle in 2009 and 2010 who started five games at left guard this season, struggled Sunday in Brewster's place, and Mularkey said Wednesday recently acquired Steve Vallos would work at left guard in practice.
Mularkey also said with center Brad Meester taking a normal Wednesday off practice, practice squad player Austin Pasztor would work at left guard Wednesday.
"We're going to work a couple of guys," Mularkey, adding that Britton's play thus far this season has been "probably not as consistent as he would like or we would like. He hasn't played a whole lot this year and he was in there (Sunday) against a pretty good defensive line. We're going to face the same thing this week with Miami, so we've got to make sure we're solid up front."
Dwight Lowery was among seven Jaguars players missing practice Wednesday.
Lowery, a starting free safety who missed five games earlier this season with an ankle injury, missed practice with a foot injury, while running back Rashad Jennings—who missed this past Sunday's loss to the Jets – missed practice because he has not passed his concussion test.
Also out of practice Wednesday were cornerback Aaron Ross (calf), running back Jordan Todman (calf), fullback Greg Jones (thigh), center Brad Meester (foot) and running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot).
Defensive end George Selvie (concussion) and Shorts were limited, with defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (calf), cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) and cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin) practicing full.
"We have a bunch of young guys on this team, a number of young guys that have to still learn how to be pros. There is a rookie wall. Their bodies are saying, 'What the heck has happening to me right now?' They have to learn how to be a professional. How do they prepare themselves? How do they teach themselves to recover? You need veterans that do it the right way. The more you've got obviously the better, but we have a number of those guys."
QB CHAD HENNE HENNE SAYS
"As a quarterback you're always going to be blamed. The head coach and the quarterback are determined by wins and losses, and they're going to keep you around if you win – if not, they are going to try and find someone else. I'll take the blame because I have no problem taking it, and I can live my life and move on with it, but the most important thing is improving each and every week."
DE JASON BABIN SAYS
"I think when you take out some of the hesitation, you know what you're doing right away then you can progress to focusing on some of the fine details. I'm feeling comfortable with the play calls, the terminology, even the guys in the locker room – I'm starting to get to know them a little bit. So it's nice."
Mularkey said while Henne was intercepted twice in a loss to the Jets Sunday, after watching the tape he believed Henne played well. "After I watched it and I came in and talked to the coaches Tuesday morning, he did some good things," Mularkey said. "We can help him do some better things, but there are still things there." Mularkey said Henne has been hurt in three starts by the same problem that hampered the offense with Blaine Gabbert the first nine games of the regular season – dropped passes. "You can say they're young guys and it's not a lot of experience, but these are not hard passes to catch the ones we're dropping," Mularkey said. "We talked about layups and they just change your momentum and they have all year." Mularkey, upon inserting Henne into the starting lineup three weeks ago, said Henne would have a chance to be the starter next season if he played well the rest of the season and he said Wednesday that remained the case. "I definitely would say that," Mularkey said. "He is definitely in the mix."
The Jaguars will hold a non-padded practice Thursday and another Friday as they continue preparations for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
*One key matchup Sunday: Jaguars right tackle Cameron Bradfield versus Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake. Bradfield, a second-year veteran, has started all but two games this season, while Wake has 14 sacks this season and 36.5 the last three seasons. "He is about as explosive out of his stance and getting off the edge as I've seen this year – probably hands down," Mularkey said of Wake. Henne, a teammate of Wake's in Miami the past four seasons, said, "If he feels it's a passing situation, he's definitely going to come. For me just staying on rhythm and staying on time, and believe in my guys up front."
*Mularkey said he believes he has a good feel for the team's energy level with three weeks remaining in the regular season, and that while some players may feel overworked, "That's every year." Mularkey added that after 30 years in the NFL, "I have a pretty good feel for it. I've been successful and not successful. I have a pretty good gauge. I am constantly asking the staff. I am asking for opinions from everybody. I ask players too. . . . If you ask every team there's no way everybody's going to be on the same page."
*Mularkey said the team continues to hope linebacker Daryl Smith can play this season. Smith, the franchise's all-time tackles leader, was inactive for the first six games of the season before being place on the NFL's new injured reserve/designated for return list, from which he can be activated for the last two games of the season. "I'd say I will know a lot better this time next week," Mularkey said. "We don't have to do anything until the 22nd. I know just his spirits have been much better than they have been, so that to me says he's feeling better. We're not going to blow it out right off the bat. This is definitely gradual."