For Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey, a challenge of the 2012 off-season is clock watching, something that's a little trickier and more important than it might sound.
Under the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, coaches are limited in how much time they can spend with players on the field. Mularkey said the Jaguars have coaching time scheduled precisely enough that it prevents the normal routine of assistants being able to spend post-practice one-on-one time with players.
"The one thing we're missing is the extra time coaches like to spend with their guys on the field," Mularkey said. "OTAs are restricted to two hours. We've been getting done a few minutes early, but we like to stretch them (under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski) after practice."
Mularkey said he has had to pull coaches such as wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and running backs coach Sylvester Croom off the field. On Tuesday, Mularkey said he had to stop Croom from working with Rashad Jennings after practice.
The NFL monitors the time spent on the field with a camera installed at each team's facility.
"I'm like, 'You can't be out there,''' Mularkey said, adding with a smile. "I hoped my gesture of, 'Get off the field,' was big enough that the cameras saw me. When you hear three short blasts, that means get off the field."
Mularkey said a frustration of the rule is it prevents players who want to be coached and coaches who want to coach from doing something mutually beneficial.
"Players ask for it," Mularkey said of younger players seeking additional coaching.
D'Anthony Smith knows enough to know reality.
So, while the Jaguars' third-year defensive tackle said he feels great physically, he also said he knows the importance of the coming season.
Smith, a third-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, has yet to play in the NFL, missing the 2010 season with an Achilles injury before missing last season with a toe injury. So, when he was asked Tuesday if this season was "last call" he saw the point.
"I'd be a little bit on the crazy side to think this is not the last call," Smith said. "It's three strikes and you're out. (Jaguars General Manager) Gene (Smith) brought me in here to produce and that's what I plan on doing this year."
Smith said he has felt fine physically in OTAs.
"Everything is feeling good," he said. "Achilles, the toe, everything feels like it was worth that year off –feeling great. There's no doubt in my mind whatsoever. Not even a little bit. You can't have doubt going on the field. . . .
"I still have to adjust to the speed of the game and everything. I think I did that. I came along pretty well in the veteran camp, and right now I'm in the mix of things and running with the guys, so I feel good."
WHAT MULARKEY SAYS
"Jerry Sullivan has really done what I thought he would when he came in here. He's so detailed in his coaching and he really wants to do things exactly right. It's starting to show in the wideouts, in everything they do. We had that conversation here today, 'No way this guy could have stayed retired.' He has way too much energy and enthusiasm and love for the game to sit in his living room on Sundays. No way."
WHAT TE ZACH MILLER SAYS
"Everything has been great – getting to know them (the new coaching staff) as people and how everybody interacts on the football field and how they teach. They're great teachers and have great football knowledge. We have a very in-depth offense with a lot of weapons so I'm excited about the year."
WHAT LB RUSSELL ALLEN SAYS
"I think it's an overall change – attention to detail, and the tempo of practice, the things that are expected of us. Everything is sort of turned up a notch, which I think is really going to benefit us in the long run."
WHAT CB DEREK COX SAYS
"We are progressing pretty fast (in OTAs). There's a higher tempo and we have a lot of intensity during practice so I would say it's going well."
WHAT FB MONTELL OWENS SAYS
"Things are picking up. As an offense, as a special teams and as a defense we're really starting to get into the bulk of our playbook. We're starting to do some different things and guys are excited, so we're having fun."
WHAT WE SAW
A week into organized team activities, rookie punter Bryan Anger continues to impress. The Jaguars on Tuesday worked punting drills into their morning work during the time practice was open to the media. On a handheld stopwatch, Anger's hang time during the drills was between 4.8 and 5.0 seconds, considered quality punts by NFL standards. He also had several punts longer and with more hang time while warming up before the drills. Special teams players have been impressed thus far with Anger, and the belief is his hang time will help the Jaguars be far more effective in punt coverage.
If there is a theme around the Jaguars a week into OTAs, it's the overall enthusiasm and positive vibe coming from players discussing the new direction of the franchise. Not that you'd expect to hear them say anything different. A new head coach, a new offensive scheme and a significant amount of turnover among the coaching staff are elements that are going to promote positive comments and a good off-season feeling. But even with the expected enthusiasm, you hear significant things when you talk to players. They talk about increased tempo offensively in practice, better performance by the offense in practice and more attention to detail from the coaching staff overall. It's still OTAs and there are no pads, so what's said right now must be kept in perspective, but they're still significant things that should point to improvement come the regular season.
Nearly all of the 90 Jaguars players on the off-season roster will participate in organized team activities practices Wednesday and Thursday, then finish OTAs with practices next Tuesday through Friday. The team's mandatory mini-camp is scheduled to run June 12-14. Training camp is scheduled to begin with the players reporting on July 26.
*Cornerback Rashean Mathis said on Tuesday he is ahead of schedule in his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and has an appointment scheduled with orthopedist James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., June 4. Andrews performed the surgery, and Mathis said he hopes to be cleared to participate in the team's minicamp June 12-14. "It may be limited, but as long as they give him the go-ahead – and really, if the player feels good about it is important, as well – I'm sure we would let him go, but I'm sure it's going to be limited, too," Mularkey said. Mularkey said even if he's limited there would be benefit to Mathis participating. He also said Mathis has been impressive in his dedication to returning this off-season, saying there hasn't been a day he has been here that he hasn't seen Mathis in the training room.
*Kicker Josh Scobee and running back Maurice Jones-Drew remained out of OTAs. Scobee has yet to sign the franchise tender the team extended him earlier this off-season, and Jones-Drew – as he has done several times in his career – has not participated in the team's off-season program.
*Defensive end Jeremy Mincey missed practice Tuesday because of an illness, and the following players remained out: defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (knee), wide receiver Taylor Price (foot), Mathis, Ashton Youboty (hamstring), offensive tackle William Robinson (knee), defensive end Aaron Kampman (knee), defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (eye) and defensive end John Chick (knee).
*The following players worked returning punts on Tuesday: wide receivers Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Mike Brown and Mike Thomas, running back DuJuan Harris and cornerback Aaron Ross.