The mood was light and cheerful as the Jaguars got back to work on Wednesday, and coach Jack Del Rio announced that, despite having lost both starting guards for the season due to injury, expectations remain the same.
"This is when the (coaching) staff has to earn its money … find ways to utilize guys because we are not going to lower our expectations," Del Rio told reporters in previewing Sunday's home-opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Del Rio also announced that Mo Williams has joined fellow guard Vince Manuwai on the injured reserve list. Both players sustained season-ending injuries in Sunday's loss at Tennessee.
You might think a second such announcement in three days would only further lower team spirits, but Del Rio was in rare form in Wednesday's press conference. Sensing urgency to not let despair creep into his locker room, Del Rio was at the top of his press conference game.
"We absolutely need our crowd to give us a homefield advantage; that crowd noise and difficulty of operating on the road. We need it," Del Rio said in an appeal to Jaguars fans. A home TV blackout, though, is still a possibility.
The Jaguars certainly expect to get a boost from their fans, but the weather could turn out to be their greatest ally. Temperatures on Sunday are forecast to reach 94 degrees and that will make the one o'clock kickoff excruciatingly hot for a team from western New York that also calls Toronto home.
"It's gonna be hot. It's hot for everybody," Del Rio said.
"Our expectations will not change. We have to find a way to be the better team on Sunday," he added.
The possibility exists that wide receiver Jerry Porter could see his first action in a Jaguars uniform. Porter underwent hamstring surgery in July and didn't play in a preseason game or in last Sunday's season-opener. He began practicing early last week but sat out practices at the end of the week.
"He'll be practicing today," Del Rio said of Porter on Wednesday.
Del Rio also announced that the team has signed veteran offensive tackle Todd Wade to a contract. Wade, once a high-priced free-agent acquisition of the Texans, will not be immediately available to play. He is recovering from an ankle injury that caused him to agree to an injury settlement with the Redskins when he was cut in late August. Signing Wade injured allowed the Jaguars to undercut interest from other teams.
Meanwhile, guards Uche Nwaneri and Tutan Reyes, who are replacing Manuwai and Williams, must prepare for a highly-motivated Marcus Stroud. The defensive tackle was traded by the Jaguars to Buffalo last spring, a release of sorts that dented Stroud's pride.
"He had a good game last week. He was explosive. He looked like the old Marcus Stroud," Nwaneri said. "We're going to be ready. We're focused and ready to go out and take care of business."
"Marcus Stroud was a big part of our team when he was here," Del Rio said. "Decisions have to be made every year. We decided moving him was the best long-term for us."
Del Rio also offered a bit of information on the condition of Richard Collier, who was gunned down by a still-on-the-loose assailant in the wee hours of Sept. 2.
"Richard remains critical but stable. The family has requested that we respect their privacy. Once they have a prognosis and a full understanding of what they have, they'll pass that information on," Del Rio said.