JACKSONVILLE – Mike Brown liked what he heard from the start.
And in fact, the more the first-year wide receiver is around Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell, the more he likes what he hears .
That's because Brown is used to competition, and taking advantage of opportunity.
So, what's going on around the Jaguars this offseason . . .
Well, as Brown sees it, what's not to like?
"When they talked about open competition, that's everything anyone could want to hear," Brown said this week as the Jaguars prepared for 2013 organized team activities, which begin Monday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields outside EverBank Field.
It's not like Brown hasn't been through competition before. This is a guy used to finding his way without preexisting advantages.
Brown, who played quarterback his final two years at Liberty University, joined the Jaguars last offseason after the 2012 NFL Draft not as a draft selection and not even as an undrafted free agent, but as a tryout player in rookie minicamp. It's hard to start with fewer advantages than that, but Brown signed to the 90-man roster shortly after and played well enough in training camp and preseason to spend 15 weeks on the team's practice squad.
He then spent the final two regular-season games on the roster, starting in the final game of the regular season at Tennessee.
Then, Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith was fired, and Head Coach Mike Mularkey was, too. The Jaguars then hired Caldwell and Bradley, and Brown in a very real sense had to start over again.
"When I first heard about the new regime, my mindset was, 'It's just like a tryout all over again,''' he said. "Last year, I had to prove myself. It's very similar."
One thing that wasn't new was his position coach, Jerry Sullivan, a 21-year NFL veteran and one of the league's most-respected receivers coaches. Brown said when he first arrived at the Jaguars last season his route-running was so raw and so bad that these days, he doesn't even watch video of himself last offseason.
"I don't want to see that mess," he said, laughing.
With Sullivan's help, and working against veteran corners Aaron Ross and Derek Cox, Brown said he improved in that area. He said he's quicker in and out of routes, more precise, and overall sees things quicker than he did a year ago.
"He has a standard and his standard is really high," Brown said of Sullivan. "It pushes you as a receiver to live up to that standard. If not, you feel like you're falling behind everybody else."
Brown said that as Sullivan pushes, the receivers push each other, too. He and Shorts worked out together in Atlanta and Jacksonville this offseason, and it is Shorts who he said has inspired him this offseason. Shorts this time last year was coming off a two-reception rookie year, and was behind Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas, Lee Evans and Justin Blackmon on the depth chart entering OTAs. He finished the season as the Jaguars' leading receiver.
"From the time I got here," Brown said of Shorts, "he told me, 'Look, it's a grind. Just keep working hard. We'll push each other and whatever happens, happens.' It feels like I'm starting a step further ahead than I was last year. I'm just a lot more comfortable with what I can do and I need to do."
Brown's chances of making the roster are unknown. He knows is he no lock. Blackmon and Shorts likely will start once Blackmon has served a four-game suspension, and the team drafted Ace Sanders from South Carolina in the fourth round after signing Mohamad Massaquoi as an unrestricted free agent and re-signing Jordan Shipley.
But around the Jaguars, this offseason is about competition and getting noticed, and Bradley has noticed Brown. The Jaguars last weekend held a three-day rookie minicamp, and because he hadn't accrued a full season, Brown was eligible to attend. He did, and when the final practice ended Sunday, Bradley said he told Brown to take the following day's voluntary workout for veterans off, the idea to give his body a break from the daily wear and tear.
"Even though I told him that he said, 'How about I come in for meetings and I'm there for meetings?"' Bradley said.
It's the sort of thing a first-year head coach loves to hear, particularly one looking for players who want to work hard and love football, and although it guarantees nothing, it shows that Brown has a chance.
Which is what anyone wants to hear.
"The only thing I can control is me, what I do, and how good I make myself," he said. "The business side of it is something players can't control. You can't try to play GM or head coach. I try to approach it the exact same as I did last year, which is to come out and compete and get myself better every day, every opportunity I get.
"I just worry about myself and trust that God has a plan for me."