FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – He's back, and that's a reason to smile.
"It feels awesome," Devin Lloyd said.
This was Thursday, and Lloyd felt awesome because he was practicing in pads. That meant he has a chance to play against the Atlanta Falcons Saturday in the 2022 preseason finale. That's good for Lloyd, and good for the Jaguars' improving young defense.
"This is what I've been waiting for," Lloyd said Thursday, moments after the Jaguars' second joint practice of the week against the Falcons at the Falcons' facility. "This is kind of my peace, so I'm glad to be back out here.
Added Lloyd, "I felt really confident in my ability, confident in the scheme. I was flying. I felt amazing out there."
Lloyd, the No. 27 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, missed the first few weeks of training camp with a hamstring injury. Head Coach Doug Pederson said Thursday Lloyd could play about a quarter Saturday "barring any setbacks."
"These practices here and next week are important to him," Pederson said. "There was a lot of lost time, reps on the field that [rookie third-round linebacker Chad [Muma] got. Chad's better for it, which is good for us, too.
"We're fortunate to have both of those guys here with us. We've just got to do our job as coaches to make sure that Devin is caught up to speed and he's prepared mentally and physically for what he's about to face."
Lloyd, projected throughout the offseason as a likely starter, was asked Thursday if he thought he would be ready for the Jaguars' September 11 regular-season opener against the Washington Commanders.
"I know I will," he said.
Asked what he needed to do to ensure that's the case, he said: "The same thing I would have done if my hamstring wasn't ready: Continue to prepare, watch film, do all the little things right. I don't think this injury in anyway has hindered me from playing to my full capability."
Lloyd, a first-team All-America selection at Utah in 2021, sustained his hamstring injury in the team's pre-training camp conditioning run. He said the pull was where the tendon and muscle connect, which caused his return to take a bit longer than some hamstring injuries. He talked Thursday about the injury being an example of knowing when and when not to push his limits, and said missing valuable camp time as a rookie was difficult at times.
"There were some days where you just wanted to be out there and couldn't," Lloyd said. "Mentally, you were ready but physically your body just wouldn't let you. There were some tough days, but you ultimately just try to stay on the positive side. That's what I did for the most part."
Teammates this week said Lloyd's speed, athleticism and "high motor" has been evident this week upon his return.
"He was flying around, looking good, filling gaps, doing what he's supposed to do," Jaguars rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker said. "It wasn't a surprise because I've watched film on him, seen him do it on film, but to actually have him out there on the field with me flying around like he was, I'm excited to see how he's going to be."
Jaguars linebacker Foye Oluokun said Lloyd's commitment was obvious even during his training-camp absence.
"He's going to be like a lab rat," Oluokun said. "He's a worker, a very hard worker. I think he tweaked his hamstring working a little too hard. I told him to chill out. He just wants to be the best he can, but he wants to be the best now. I like that about him.
"He just has to listen to learn, and I think the sky is the limit for him."
Lloyd called staying in high spirits the trickiest part of the past few weeks, and said he feels he benefitted from mental repetitions and meetings during that that time. And while this past week was his first padded, on-field work, he said he expects to be ready physically when needed.
"The conditioning aspect is tough, but I was also doing some sort of conditioning as I was building up to do stuff on the field," he said. "These last couple of days, I haven't really felt it at all. I've been flying around. I feel good for the reps I'm getting."
Top photos from day 2 of joint practice in Flowery Branch, GA, before the Jaguars face the Falcons in the 2022 Preseason Finale game on Saturday, August 27. Which photo is your favorite?