Maurice Jones-Drew said there never was an injury, Sean Considine will be the starter at free safety on Sunday and coach Jack Del Rio is looking for a fast start coming out of Sept. that'll put his team in position to be a playoff contender this season.
Those were the hot topics as the Jaguars began their work week on Labor Day. It's a week that'll conclude with one of the most flavorful season-openers in Jaguars history: a game against the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow at EverBank Field.
"We feel like we're approaching the start of our season in a good spot," Del Rio told reporters on Monday. "We're getting healthy at the right time."
Del Rio likely had his team's opening schedule in mind as he weighed playing time for his key players in the preseason. The Jaguars will play at home three times in the first four games and three of those games will be against AFC opponents. It's an opportunity for the Jaguars to get off to a fast start and put themselves into position for a playoff run, and Del Rio referred to a lightly-regarded team that seems to come out of nowhere early every season, "gets off to a good start, builds confidence, builds momentum. That's what we're after … find a way to come out of Sept. with some good momentum," he said.
Jones-Drew is a player Del Rio likely rested in the preseason with the regular-season grind in mind. Jones-Drew's lack of carries (six for minus-two yards) may have caused at least one blogger to speculate that Jones-Drew had a knee injury.
"I don't think anyone shows their hand in the preseason. It's a non-issue," Jones-Drew said of his knee on Monday. "There are a lot of false reports out there. Some guy in his basement decided to put out false reports. I was resting. There's no injury, so let's put that in the paper. There's no injury. It was a false statement. Somebody ran with it."
If that, indeed, is the accurate information, then Jones-Drew should be rested and ready to roll against the Broncos this Sunday. Jones-Drew is the Jaguars' lone star-quality player and the expectation is for him to lead the way on offense. He will, of course, have to share the spotlight with Tebow, the favorite-son quarterback.
"I'm sure there'll be a bunch of (number) 15 jerseys in the stands. That's the way it is. That's life. You can't get upset," Jones-Drew said. "The place will be sold out because of Tim Tebow. We all know it."
"Guys understand the importance of each game. Last year, the way we ended it isn't the way to end it," he added.
What is the importance of this game? Well, it's about a fast start, or the possibility of the opposite happening, but it's also about pleasing a fan base that is waiting for proof the Jaguars will be better than the last two years' editions.
"Gene and his staff do a tremendous job of knowing their roster and the rest of the league and doing things to make us as strong as possible now and going forward," Del Rio said of General Manager Gene Smith and the roster cuts he made this past weekend. "We feel like we've made strides and now it's proving time. Beginning Sunday, we get to prove it to our fans and to ourselves."
The two biggest personnel decisions that had to be made were at free safety and left guard. Considine has won the job at free safety and that forced the exits of Gerald Alexander and Reggie Nelson, the former first-round pick who was traded to Cincinnati.
"He was the production winner at safety. We feel like he gives us the best chance to win now," Del Rio said of Considine.
Justin Smiley is the winner at guard over incumbent Vince Manuwai. Smiley will start at left guard and Uche Nwaneri will start at right guard.
The national media digested all of this information and unanimously decided the Jaguars are not a playoff contender. The Jaguars' goal is to change that perception.
"I think the perceived strength of some teams is greater than the actual strength of those teams," Del Rio said.
Perception becomes reality on Sunday.