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Inside the Jaguars: Rackley feeling awesome


JACKSONVILLE – You won't hear much complaining from Will Rackley.

Rackley, the Jaguars' third-year offensive guard, said he doesn't mind the dog days of training camp, and don't expect to hear him griping about much else in the coming days.

Not in this camp. Not this year.

"It's awesome, man," Rackley said Sunday on the third day of Jaguars 2013 Training Camp, being held at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields outside EverBank Field.

Awesome . . . that's how Rackley said he always feels about football, but this camp is one he particularly appreciates.

A year ago, almost to the day, Rackley sustained an ankle injury in camp, missing the rest of camp and the entire preseason. A week before the regular-season opener, the Jaguars placed him on injured reserve, ending his season.

And it wasn't just any season that ended.

This was Rackley's second season, coming after his first full NFL offseason. That's typically a season in which a player takes his biggest jump at the professional level. Instead, Rackley spent the season rehabilitating.

"It had to have been very difficult," Jaguars 14-year veteran center Brad Meester said. "When you're in the offseason you can't wait to get back. There's a burning desire to get back out there, especially as you get into your second year, because you're out of that rookie year, where it's chaotic. Now, you know what's going on, so you can see there's truly a fire to get back in there."

That fire manifested itself throughout the offseason.

The Jaguars throughout the 2013 offseason had high attendance from players. Such is expected on a team with a first-year head coach and a first-year general manager. But Rackley's attendance surpassed most, with Rackley being seen around the facility regularly before the official beginning of the '13 offseason program and long after the end.

"He's worked hard – there's no question about that," Meester said. "What's really impressed me is when I came back from our five weeks off (in late June and early July), I came back a couple of weeks early and he was here every day running and working hard. It shows.

"He's ready to come back. He cares and he wants to come back and get this thing going."

Rackley said he remained in Jacksonville on pretty close to a year-round basis for that reason.

"I've ever been the biggest, fastest guy, so I feel like I have to outwork everybody," he said.
"I've worked as hard as I can to learn the techniques. To be kind of away from home, it makes me more focused here; I have no distractions.

"I would love to be with my family, but it's just me down here. I'm single down here. I'm by myself in my house, and when I'm home, all I think about is football. It makes me focus when I'm down here."

The Jaguars' offensive line is expected to be improved this season. One reason is Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, but another is the return of Rackley.

Jaguars coaches have been impressed with Rackley in the offseason, and his presence at left guard between Monroe and Meester could solidify an area that struggled through inconsistency and injury last season.

"We have a lot of expectations for ourselves, and with the new coaching staff and the players we have, we just have to jell together," Rackley said. "I think we've got something good."

And while Rackley said missing an entire year was difficult he said he doesn't obsess over the idea of being back. As much as he can, he tries to approach this as a regular training camp – however awesome he may feel.

"I don't think about I missed last year, or think, 'I can't get hurt,''' he said. "I'm just trying to work on my stuff and make sure I'm where I want to be in the first game. I'm not going to be one who says, 'I missed a year, so I get a freebee to be mediocre.' I'm going to do what I can to help the team."

Also around the Jaguars Sunday:

*Ball security continued to be an issue with rookie Denard Robinson, who fumbled on his first carry taking a direct snap from the Wildcat formation. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said the issue is addressed with Robinson "almost every day," adding, "He has to have that mindset because his teammates need to trust him. It's hard to get on the field if you can't protect the ball when one of our major deals of this organization is it's all about the ball. He's made leaps and bounds from where he was; again, it's the consistency with him."

*Bradley praised the play of rookie free agent defensive tackle T.J. Barnes and rookie free agent defensive tackle Paul Hazel in pass-rushing drills Sunday. "I thought they showed up a little bit," Bradley said, also praising rookie cornerback Jeremy Harris.

*The Jaguars worked in shoulder pads for the first time during camp after working in shorts and helmets on Days 1 and 2. "It was good," Bradley said of the work in pads.

*Safety Steve Terrell missed practice Sunday with an arch sprain and will continue to be monitored.

*Bradley on Barnes, a 6-feet-7, 364-pound rookie from Georgia Tech, "When you look at him you wonder how is he going to be able to handle three hundred and sixty pounds and play. He's pretty good for how big he is. He carries it pretty well and I know his body fat dropped and his weight dropped some."

*Bradley once again praised wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, who caught two of the five touchdown passes caught by Jaguars receivers and tight ends Sunday. "He competes," Bradley said. "I know that he will go and go and go and go and he will never let up. We have to understand that's his mentality and he will take a ton of reps. He's really driven and is an impressive person."

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