The Jaguars began their OTA (organized team activities) season on Monday, but you wouldn't know it by the weather. Chilly, windy, rainy conditions attempted to dampen the Jaguars' spirits, but failed.
"I thought summer was here for good; apparently not," coach Jack Del Rio said following a two-hour workout that was attended by all but a few players.
A Jaguars team intent on erasing its failures of 2008 got the ball rolling on a 12-practice OTA spring and commitment is clearly the theme Del Rio wants to establish.
"The energy, the guys here working hard is what we need," Del Rio said. "Without people being here and buying in, you have no chance."
There were three absences. First-round draft choice Eugene Monroe graduated on Sunday and wasn't due to arrive in Jacksonville until Monday afternoon. Undrafted defensive tackle Nader Abdallah won't be able to attend until Ohio State conducts commencement exercises in June. Veteran defensive tackle Derek Landri was excused for personal reasons.
Everybody else was present. There were no opt-outs or contract malcontents attempting to use OTAs to send a message.
Among the rookies, a trio of wide receivers led the way on Monday. When asked if his wide receiving corps appears to be better than recent versions, Del Rio smiled and said: "At least they're clear-eyed and ready to work in meetings."
Del Rio has taken stock of last year's performance, which produced a 5-11 record following a playoff season that had the Jaguars regarded among the league's elite at this time last spring. He's made it clear that he wants a sharper focus and General Manager Gene Smith took steps toward sharpening that focus this offseason by gutting a significant portion of the roster.
Can the Jaguars get back to where they were two seasons ago, when their arrow was decidedly pointing up? What will it take to get back there?
"I'm most excited about the guys who are the core of our team. We need those guys to play great. The meat of who we are this year is going to be determined by those guys," Del Rio said, mentioning names such as David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashean Mathis, Reggie Nelson, etc.
Veteran defensive end Reggie Hayward said turning the clock back to 2007 will be a matter of refocusing. "We had some distractions," he said of the '08 team. "You try to avoid them, you try to ignore them but I think those distractions hurt the team.
"We sort of tapped into that ability to stay on the same page and play well," Hayward said of '07. "We surprised everyone because they didn't expect that out of Jacksonville. They expected it the next year and we folded. We're not going to sneak up on anyone any more. We put ourselves in good position and we just didn't have what it takes."
The Jaguars began the process on Monday of putting themselves back in position.