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Inside the Jaguars: Fisch says Henne at QB "Business As Usual"


JACKSONVILLE – As Jedd Fisch sees it, the situation is unusual but it's not.

Blaine Gabbert, named the Jaguars' starting quarterback on Monday, didn't practice Tuesday, and he isn't expected to practice or play until the week of the regular-season opener because of a hairline fracture in his right thumb.

That means Chad Henne, now the backup to Gabbert, worked with the starters and likely will do so far more often than not in the coming days and weeks, particularly as the team prepares to play Philadelphia in the third game of the preseason Monday.

Odd? A distraction?

Far from it, the Jaguars' offensive coordinator said Tuesday.

 "It's business as usual for us," Fisch said following a two-hour, 10-minute practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.

Fisch said that's because in the weeks leading up to Monday's decision, Gabbert took almost equal repetitions with the first team, with Henne taking 330 repetitions with the first team.

"We'll go out and run our offense," Fisch said. "The game plan will not change. It will be a game plan set for the Eagles, and we'll go out and run the final preseason game and we'll be ready for Kansas City (in the first game of the regular season)."

Head Coach Gus Bradley announced Gabbert as the starter over Henne on Monday, and Fisch said rather than any magic element to the timing of the decision it was just the right time.

"Gus and I and (General Manager) Dave (Caldwell) and (quarterbacks coach) Frank (Scelfo) had continuous conversations about the evaluation process," Fisch said. "I think we all felt that when it was ready to go, that's when we were going to do it. If either one of us thought it should have been done earlier, we probably would have done it earlier.

"We all really liked the way it was going, and we liked how it was getting each one better. We felt there were continued signs of progress."

Fisch did say that the Jaguars had reached a point where the team wanted Gabbert to get reps with the first team.

"But unfortunately, Blaine can't get them anyway," Fisch said. "He has to start commanding them mentally now."

Monday's announcement ended a quarterback competition that officially began in mid-April, when the Jaguars began the offseason program, but Fisch said in fact it started long before that. Fisch also said the decision came down to far more than just Gabbert's 13-of-16 performance for 165 yards and a touchdown in a preseason loss to the New York Jets Saturday.

"It was a process from the first day we met," Fisch said of Gabbert. "Whenever he first came into my office to introduce himself, it was the beginning of evaluation. Then, the first time I talked to Chad . . . We wanted to evaluate the guy who was going to be the starting quarterback of an NFL team, not just a thrower, the best this, or the best leader. It was the total evaluation process, so it wasn't just one game."

Also Tuesday:

*Starting left guard Will Rackley was attended to by trainers late in one of the Jaguars' hottest 2013 practices to date practice for asthma issues, but before that, the third-year veteran took reps at center. Second-year veteran Mike Brewster had been working at backup center throughout most of training camp. "If it gets me on the field, I like it," said Rackley, who took repetitions at center as a rookie in 2011 and during the 2012 offseason before missing that regular season. "The more you can do the better," Rackley said. "It helps me and helps the team."

*The Jaguars roster remains at 88 players after the Monday release of guard Jason Spitz and wide receiver Mohamad Massaquoi. Teams must reduce their rosters to 75 players by next Tuesday.

*Cornerback Kevin Rutland (quadriceps) and running back Jordan Todman (hamstring) practiced on Tuesday, a day after Head Coach Gus Bradley said they might miss time this week. Each player was limited in repetitions, but Todman – running as the third-team running back – said the third week of the preseason is no time for a reserve fighting for a roster spot to miss. "Sitting out was definitely not an option," Todman said. "You work at it. You get back to practice. You do as much as you can. I went out and got some work in today. That was my goal, to make sure I practiced and got better."

*Bradley said Tuesday the team is beginning to more closely evaluate the depth chart as the dates to trim the roster approach. "We're starting to look more at regular-season roles as we go on with first, second and third groups and trying to finalize things as we get closer with this process in training camp," he said. "We've got to make some tough decisions after this game so that's why you're seeing a lot of guys still in the competition mode."

*Bradley said Gabbert ideally will be able to begin practicing the Wednesday before the regular-season opener, but he didn't offer that as an absolute deadline for Gabbert to be able to play against Kansas City. "We've just got to play it by ear," he said. "In his mind, I think he thinks he will be back earlier. I know that we've got to take a look at it. He's in cast now and we'll reevaluate it once it comes out of the cast. . . . We will be smart with him. We will be very smart."

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