JACKSONVILLE – As Geno Hayes sees it, the timing is right.
Early in his career, maybe he wouldn't have felt right where he is now. Had he played for Gus Bradley as a head coach before this season, maybe he wouldn't have been ready to hear what he's hearing.
This idea of competing against yourself, of measuring you against "you?" That's the core of what Bradley preaches as the Jaguars' head coach. And in that philosophy there is an awful lot about not worrying about extracurriculars and simply focusing on each day.
Hayes, the Jaguars' veteran linebacker, loves the approach.
And it's a big reason he loves where he is.
"Where I am correlates to what he's got going on right now," Hayes said this week at Jaguars 2013 Training Camp, which continued Wednesday morning with a morning practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
And if Hayes speaks highly of Bradley, who worked with Hayes as linebackers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, Bradley this week spoke highly of Hayes, too.
Bradley spoke in the offseason of having challenged Hayes, who signed with the Jaguars as unrestricted free agent in March. By the end of the offseason and organized team activities, Bradley said Hayes responded.
Bradley said that upward ascension has continued in training camp.
"He's done a nice job," Bradley said. "There's a new system in OTAs and sometimes when you watch Geno on film you don't know how fast he's playing because he's a pretty smooth athlete. We want him to see that more on tape.
"He's come in doing that in training camp and you see more flashes of him showing up. I think he's getting more and more comfortable with what we're asking him."
Hayes, a sixth-round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, spent four seasons with Tampa Bay and one with Chicago before signing with the Jaguars this past offseason. It was painted by some as a second chance for Hayes, who started for the Buccaneers from 2009-2011 before playing a reserve role in Chicago.
"When I think of second chance that means in the first chance, you failed," Hayes said. "I didn't fail the first one; I maybe didn't learn what I needed to learn. That's where I learned maturity. I thought of it as more of a reinvention of what everybody had perceived, and what they had thought before. It wasn't, 'Oh,' I've got to make this happen to prove this point.'
"Right now, I'm going to be the same guy I've always been, just on a different level, a different maturity level."
Hayes said that means the ability to learn schemes, to understand situations. He said that's where he's better now than before, and he said this opportunity in Jacksonville is a chance to show that. And he said mostly when he thinks about his chance that he thinks in Bradley's terms, that each day is a chance to improve – as Bradley says, to compete.
"Every day I go out there in practice, I look for the next step to move on," he said. "Whatever I do, I feel like I can do better. That's my mentality in camp right now. I feel like I'm doing good, but not like I should.
"I don't want to say, 'I'm going to surprise,' or 'I want to surprise.' I'd rather say I'll let the tape speak for itself when it's time to play. I'm not the type to go out and talk a bunch of crazy stuff and talk about proving people wrong. I'll just let the tape talk for itself."
Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:
*Bradley wasn't thrilled with practice and blamed himself. He said it was too challenging, with first-team units on the field for periods that were too long. "Normally at this point, you wouldn't do too much of that," Bradley said. "You might go four reps, five reps or put them in situations and let them know, but we jumped into a situation like that." . . .
*Bradley credited the players for pushing through a difficult practice. "They pushed their tails through it and really covered my butt on it," he said. "It was good to see. We've got to do a better job of structuring practice." . . .
*Bradley said the practice setup hurt execution. "It gets to the point where you're not executing as well as you would like," he said. "We've just go to keep that mindset that when you're going out there if it's three plays or four plays we're perfect in our execution, and that's what we strive for. It was a good, competitive situation." . . .
*Bradley said another issue with the structure of practice Wednesday was the third-team units didn't get enough opportunity. "I have to do a better job of emphasizing that with our staff, to say, 'Let's make the rotations fit so we get a chance to see our third group as well,''' he said.
*Though Wednesday was the Jaguars' first practice in full pads, Bradley said the team has reached the point where live work is needed. "We'll look at that and possibly getting that in tomorrow where we go live," he said. "It just helps our pad level. It helps our tackling on the perimeter and inside and I just think overall we're at the point now where we could use at least a period of that."
*Bradley said the hope is that rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) will return next week, and he added that second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon (groin) is ahead of schedule. Cyprien has been on the reserve Non-Football Injury list since camp began, with Blackmon on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Neither has practiced in camp.
*Bradley said he is pleased with the progress of rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. "He's just really steady and that's a good feeling to have a guy like that out there," Bradley said.
*Bradley also said he likes how veteran defensive lineman Tyson Alualu is adjusting since moving to defensive end from tackle in the offseason. "I think it's been better for him physically to be more on the perimeter than inside as well," Bradley said.