JACKSONVILLE – So far, still so good.
That's how Luke Joeckel sees his progress this offseason and it reflects his outlook for the coming season as well, with the Jaguars' second-year left tackle remaining optimistic he'll be able to prepare for what lies ahead.
Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, said while he doesn't yet know exactly when he will be cleared to participate fully in the offseason program, he said he absolutely expects it to happen in time to prepare for the 2014 season.
After a long rehabilitation, he said he feels very, very close to being ready.
"I'm feeling great," Joeckel said this week on Jaguars.com LIVE!, which airs Wednesdays at noon. "I'm trying to get back. I'm still working on strength, but everything's stable and everything's healed up. Every single day I'm feeling better and that's what's important."
Joeckel, after starting the first four games as a rookie last season at right tackle, sustained a broken right ankle in the Jaguars' Week 5 loss to the St. Louis Rams. That was his first start at left tackle.
He underwent surgery shortly thereafter, and remained in Jacksonville recovering and rehabilitating not only last season but in the three months since.
Joeckel said he is scheduled to meet with physicians next week, and while he expects to be limited in some capacity when the offseason program begins, it's common for players injured the previous season to be limited early in the following offseason program.
Veterans are scheduled to report for the Jaguars' offseason program early next week, with the team's first organized team activities practice scheduled May 27.
"I want to be back tomorrow, but it's going to be a slow process," Joeckel said. "We have a great training staff and they're taking it slow with me. We're in no rush. We're not playing a game in two weeks. They're trying to be smart with me. I like that, but I'm also a competitor. I want to get out there, play with the guys and try to be a better football player.
"It's going to be us fighting with each other, me trying to get in there and them trying to hold me back, but everything's going to be great."
Joeckel last season started from the outset, but said this week he struggled at times with not only the transition to the NFL, but with playing an unfamiliar position, right tackle. He said getting hurt when he did – after 14 plays at left tackle against the Rams – was frustrating.
"I felt good for those 14 plays, but it was tough," he said. "I was feeling comfortable there. I was a better player over there and they had trusted me. To let down (Jaguars General Manager) Dave (Caldwell) and let down the team was definitely another tough thing about it.
"Coming into the NFL, the talent I saw those first four games was hard enough. But coming into this year knowing I'm going to be at left tackle definitely makes everything more comfortable. I'll be able to work at left tackle sets this whole offseason when we start. I'm excited to be on the left side."
Joeckel also on Wednesday said he has spent time this week with newly acquired guard Zane Beadles, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March. A five-year veteran who started the last four seasons for the Denver Broncos, Beadles is expected to start at left guard alongside Joeckel.
"We've gotten to know each other the past few days this week," Joeckel said. "He's a great guy. He seems like a really smart guy. I've heard from other guys who have played with him that he's an extremely smart offensive lineman. That's exciting to know.
"I'm still a young player. I think of myself as being a pretty smart guy but having a seasoned vet next to me playing at a very high level is going to be a huge help to me. I'm looking forward to it."
And whatever the next few weeks bring personally, and whenever he's allowed to work 100 percent, Joeckel said he'll take the mindset of working as hard as he's allowed. The rest, he said, can take care of itself.
"They're going to be smart with me," Joeckel said. "I'm planning on going full go and feeling good. That's the mindset I'm taking right now. I'll let them restrict me from that."