Byron Leftwich was a full participant in the Jaguars' full-pads practice on Wednesday, as the team began preparations for Sunday's playoffs-important game in Minnesota.
"Byron was back and … was able to move around well. I don't anticipate any setbacks," coach Jack Del Rio said.
Leftwich will wear a brace on his left knee, which was injured on Oct. 31 and forced the second-year quarterback to miss the Jaguars' last two games. He practiced on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured.
"I'm doing OK. I feel good right now. I wanted to play last week but it wasn't the right time to play," Leftwich said. "I wasn't perfect today but I didn't feel lost. I actually did better than I thought I would do."
At 6-4, the Jaguars need a win to keep pace with the AFC's playoff contenders. The Jaguars trail the Colts by a game in the AFC South standings, but the Colts have a near-insurmountable lead over the Jaguars in the tie-breakers, which causes most people to believe the Jaguars are more realistically chasing a wild-card playoff berth. The good news for the Jaguars in the wild-card race is that three teams ahead of them – the Ravens, Jets and Chargers – have rigorous finishing schedules. Ten wins traditionally earn a team a playoff spot and it's possible 10 wins could do it this year, too.
"We talk in general terms," Del Rio said of putting the playoffs race in perspective for his team. "There are six games left. Let's play them and then see where the chips have fallen. Yes, we have talked about those types of things," he added of the scheduling difficulty remaining for the AFC's playoff contenders.
This is the time of year playoff contenders identify themselves. Playoff talk and turkey always seem to mix well, and discussing all of the playoff possibilities would be a lot easier this week in Jacksonville if it weren't for this past Sunday's demoralizing loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Despite that loss, the Jaguars have a playoff look about them. Their running game (15th) moved up 12 places in the league rankings in November. The run-defense (10th) is up four places in that same period of time, the pass-defense (17th) is up seven spots and the defense's overall ranking (13th) is eight positions better. Only the Jaguars' passing game has lagged; down three spots to 16th, which has the offense overall at 17th.
The return of Leftwich figures to boost the passing game and that begs the question: Will Leftwich and a ramped up passing game put the Jaguars back on track to make the playoffs? Leftwich and the Jaguars will begin answering that question this Sunday in Minnesota.
"I know 6-4 is what it is and it's what we've earned to this point, and it feels a little different in Jacksonville than it does in Green Bay today," Del Rio said, referring to the Packers' recent surge. "For us, the focus has to remain each week on being a better football team. Our next opportunity is against a very tough Minnesota Vikings team. It'll be a big challenge for us."
Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and a Vikings offense that is fourth in the league overall and second only to the Colts in passing yardage won't be the only challenge the Jaguars will face. They also must overcome the disappointment of the loss to Tennessee.
"I did work at it," Del Rio said of dealing with his own despair. "Absolutely, it was a hard loss, but that was last week's news. That was my take-it-like-a-man speech. We are focused on the Vikings.
"We've turned the page. Guys are ready to get back to work. We're ready to go up to Minnesota. First, we're going to enjoy a little Thanksgiving," Del Rio added.
Maybe the Jaguars will even mix a little playoff talk with their turkey.