JACKSONVILLE – The situation is in no way ideal.
But while second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders is expected to miss most or all of 2014 Jaguars Training Camp and the first four games of the regular season, Head Coach Gus Bradley on Wednesday said it's possible to glean some positive from a difficult situation.
And Bradley said that's the objective now.
"It is unfortunate," Bradley said Wednesday afternoon on Jaguars.com LIVE, which runs on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. on jaguars.com. "You hate to lose a player of Ace's caliber for a period of time. He's a great teammate, and players really respect him. He's very talented.
"But with that being said, a lot of good has come about with this, and we're not going to miss that opportunity."
Sanders, who caught 51 passes for 484 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, on Tuesday evening told media on a conference call that he likely will miss most or all of training camp because of personal issues. He also said he likely will be suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the regular season.
The league has not officially announced Sanders' suspension.
Bradley said Sanders handled the situation as well as could be expected, discussing the issue openly with Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell and speaking on the conference call with local media.
"One of the things we've talked about with our program is communication and trust," Bradley said. "I think Ace really showed that by the way he handled the whole situation. … To have the call last night, I think says a lot about Ace."
Bradley earlier in the day spoke of Sanders' situation on Jaguars Today on 1010XL with Mike Dempsey and John Oehser, saying, "Here's a young man who's facing it head on, understands the situation and has lot of trust in the organization. He has dealt with it that way. For that part, we're excited."
Bradley also on Wednesday he expects Sanders to have a role upon his return.
"There's no doubt," Bradley said. "We've talked to Ace and said, 'When you come back from all of this we're going to welcome you with open arms and, 'Let's get back to work.' We've talked to our guys about, 'You've got to get your world right, then the man becomes right.'
"That's what he's doing now. He's getting himself right."
Bradley on Wednesday also discussed:
*Quarterback Chad Henne, saying ideally he will start 16 games this season because "that means we're doing pretty good in that spot." The Jaguars selected quarterback Blake Bortles No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, but Henne – a seven-year veteran who started 19 games for the Jaguars the past two seasons – will open training camp as the starter and he is expected to open the regular season starting as well. "With a year in our system and a year in our culture, we think he's getting closer to playing fast," Bradley said. "That's where we're intrigued by him. He already has the experience and that's why we're so excited about him. He's more clear in his role and what we expect and he has a comfort level knowing that."
*The offseason improvements of the defensive line, an area where the Jaguars signed ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and tackle Ziggy Hood as free agents. "When you have a really, really good rush, your secondary plays better," he said. "It's really that simple. I think we started off up front, making sure we added the pieces we needed to get a good rush. That's where you start, and then if that rush is there, I think you'll see the performance level of our secondary increase."
*The continued development of third-year defensive end Andre Branch, who had six sacks last season after registering one in 2012 as a rookie. "He's probably one of the first guys you should mention, because the progress he made – we're very pleased with it," Bradley said. "Now, the challenge for him is to continue that progress."
*Running back Toby Gerhart, who is expected to be the team's feature back after signing as an unrestricted free agent from the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason. "He has helped that running back group get better just by his presence," Bradley said. "We'll see what he can take on and what he can handle. Obviously, we're looking at a guy who you feel like the more he touches the ball the stronger he gets."