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Joeckel on injury: "It's tough"


JACKSONVILLE – As much as possible, Luke Joeckel will focus on the positives.

He'll try to get stronger. He'll study film.

Basically, the Jaguars' rookie left offensive tackle – who on Sunday sustained a season-ending right ankle injury – said he will do whatever is necessary in the coming months to improve as much as possible. That's the measured, long-term approach.

His short-term emotional response was different.

"It's tough," Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, told a small group of reporters at EverBank Field Monday.

Joeckel, who sustained a high right ankle fracture Sunday in a 34-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams, said while he and doctors have yet to determine if he will undergo surgery, that's the likely approach.

Joeckel said the injury is not only not career-threatening, but that following rehabilitation the ankle should be stronger than before the injury. He also said he plans to improve his upper body strength, and that he will be with the team and watching film as much as possible during rehabilitation.

While there is no timetable for his return to full strength, Joeckel said he sees himself returning before the offseason program begins next spring.

"I want to get back as soon as possible," he said. "I want to have a full offseason. I want to have more than that. I want to come back and start getting back into football as soon as possible.

"I'm not really thinking that far in the future. This is kind of just a bump in the road but I'm not looking at it as being that serious. I am going to come back better from it."

Joeckel emphasized that the injury won't affect him in the 2014 season.

"It won't affect it at all," Joeckel said. "We're going to knock this out and take care of it. I've got to get the swelling down right now and then maybe surgery. I'm going to attack rehab and try to get this thing going and get it better and come back bigger and stronger and better than I was this season."

Joeckel sustained the injury late in the second quarter, when running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran to the left side. Rams defensive end Kendall Langford while making the tackle swung into the back of Joeckel, rolling into his ankle.

Joeckel initially tried to get up, but stayed down and Jaguars trainers immediately called for a cart to remove him from the field.

"Right away I knew there was something wrong with it, so I just wanted to get off the field," Joeckel said. "The last thing I wanted was to get carted off but it was probably the best decision. It's part of the game but it's tough."

Joeckel, who started the first four games of the season at right tackle, was making his first NFL start at left tackle, the position he played at Texas A&M and the spot where he projected to be a cornerstone of the Jaguars' offensive line. He had moved to the left side in the wake of the Jaguars trading Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens last week.

Joeckel played 12 snaps at left tackle before the injury.

"That was probably the hardest part, was I finally got to live my dream and play left tackle in the NFL," Joeckel said. "I got less than a quarter and this happened."

Joeckel said he felt he had been improving through the first four games, and that he felt comfortable in his first work on the left side.

"It was good to come back," he said. "My set felt better. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road into a successful career. It's part of the sport. I love this game and it's part of the game and I'll come back and get better….

"Being on this side felt comfortable and I only got a quarter with it. That was probably the hardest part; not being able to help my team out at the left and being out for however long I'll be out."

Joeckel wasn't completely without levity Monday. His mother, Reecanne, flew to Jacksonville to assist in the wake of the injury. He said that was great for his eating habits, but joked that it did little for his image of an independent young NFL player.

"I see myself as kind of a grown up now and a grown man and I still need my mom to come take care of me," he said. "I'm really happy she's here helping out. (But) it's pretty tough on my self-esteem being a grown man having my mom take care of me."

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