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Kelvin Beachum Q&A: "The knee is great"


JACKSONVILLE – His focus is clear; his mission is, too.

On the topic of why he is in Jacksonville, and why he signed with the Jaguars, Kelvin Beachum this week left no doubt.

He sees himself as a left tackle. Plain and simple.

That's what he always has been, and as far as he is concerned, it's what he always will be.

So, when Beachum discusses his immediate and long-term future with the Jaguars, that's the framework of the conversation – that he is confident that come next regular season he will be protecting quarterback Blake Bortles' blindside.

"I love the pressure," Beachum said this week. "I love the relationship I have with the quarterback. I take pride in keeping his jersey clean. It's not so much about not getting him sacked, but what does it look like if he's wearing a white jersey and he hangs his jersey in the locker. Is it still white?

"I take pride in that aspect. When his jersey is clean, we win games. It's simple: quarterback jersey stays clean, you win games."

Beachum, a seventh-round selection by Pittsburgh in the 2012 NFL Draft, played his first four NFL seasons with the Steelers before signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March. He is expected to compete with Luke Joeckel – the Jaguars' starting left tackle the past two seasons and the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft – for the starting left tackle position.

When the on-field competition will begin isn't certain. Beachum sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 6 last season and is rehabilitating the injury. He said the rehabilitation is going well, and that his plan is to start the regular-season opener against Green Bay. Beyond that, a specific timeframe for his return isn't certain.

Senior writer John Oehser sat down with Beachum this week to discuss – among other topics – the knee, how he will approach the left-tackle competition and just why he opted to sign with the Jaguars:

Question: First, the question everyone wants to know … "How's the knee?"

Answer: The knee is great. It's amazing. The staff here has done a phenomenal job of assessing where we're at, putting a solid plan together and allowing me to do what I do best – and that's execute and do the performance aspect to push myself. I'm feeling good about it. I'm feeling great. I'm ready to do what I do best and that's play left tackle. … I'm looking to play 19 games this year, and that comes with a first-round bye, so whatever is needed to get that done, that's what I'm here to do.

Q: You were in a tough spot. You had a really good season in 2014, then going into your contract year you tear your ACL six games in. Ever ask, "Why me?"

A: It's not as brutal as everyone makes it out to be sometimes. I'm a man of faith. I was grounded before then and all this has done is make me more grounded. It wasn't like the world came crashing in. I went about the decision. I could have taken the contract [with the Steelers] before the [2015] season began. I felt I could do better and felt I had more value. It turned out that did occur.

Q: And no, "What Ifs?"

A: [Smiling] I'm here. I'm a Jacksonville Jaguar. My new home is Duval County. My family loves it. This is a new chapter and now it's, "How do I build this chapter?" I wouldn't have left Pittsburgh if I didn't believe we could win here and win now. I'm in the right place at the right time."

*Q: You see yourself playing Week 1 against Green Bay? *

A: That is my goal. That's what I'm reaching for. That's what I'm driving for. That's why I try to be the first person here and the last person to leave. I want to leave no doubt in [Owner] Shad Khan's mind, [General Manager David] Caldwell's mind, [Head Coach Gus] Bradley's mind, [Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson] Oley's mind … I want to leave no doubt in anyone's mind that I can do what I know I can do and protect like I know I can protect.

Q: Where are you at now in your rehab?

A: I'm getting ready to get into the cutting stage. I'm doing anything straightforward: sled pushing, sled drags, squatting, lunging. Cutting's coming soon. I've started doing pass sets. I've started to come out of my stance, pull – all the stuff you have to do on a football field. I've started working on those functional things that are part of the football aspect of it, so I've already started putting deposits into that bank. You have to trust the knee, so I've put myself in positions where I have to trust the knee.

Q: So, ahead of where you anticipated …

A: I think so. I didn't know I'd be doing what I would be doing right now. Me and the ramp outside the weight room have become really good friends.

Q: A few minutes ago, without prompting, you mentioned that what you do best is play left tackle. That's where you're planning to be …

A: I've been playing left tackle the past three years. No knock on anyone else who's in the building, and I respect everybody, but I played left tackle in college. When I got to the league, they said, 'You can't play left tackle … you have to play other positions.' I played a number of other positions and then they figured out, 'Hey, he's a darned good left tackle.' They left me there and I've been playing there for a while now.

Q: How often have you heard, "He's not a left tackle?" Because of size, or whatever …

A: All the time … that was the thing. It's still a thing. Is he prototypical? It's just a stereotype that has been associated with my size.

Q: Because you're an inch-and-half shorter than a "normal" left tackle … An inch and a half does that.

A: [Laughing] That's what it does, man.

Q: If Luke Joeckel is the left tackle, are you good with playing guard?

A: We'll go over that bridge when we get over it. That's not the way I think.

Q: Why Jacksonville? What impressed you?

A: When I came here on this trip, I sat down with Coach Bradley and we talked for a very long time. Then, to sit down with Dave Caldwell and to also sit down with Shad Khan and talk to him … I'm plan-oriented. I love goals. Everybody said the same thing. They said, 'This is our plan. This is what we're accomplishing. This is what has happened in the last three years and this is what will happen in the next two years.' OK, so what is it we need to do? I'm a piece of the puzzle that's here to make sure we win those games. The fact that those men are on the same page and they're doing it all together – the fact that everything is moving as one entity – that made me more comfortable. They're building something and I want to be a part of that. … Being a part of history is great. Why not be a part of history with the Jacksonville Jaguars and putting things on the right trajectory?

Q: The tone of your voice is clear: you think this is where you were destined to play …

A: If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be sitting in this chair. God does things for a reason. He puts us in circumstances for a reason.

Q: You signed a prove-it deal. It's a very lucrative contract if the team believes you're a long-term player. You also came to a situation where you're competing against a former first-round selection. You obviously have a lot of faith in yourself.

A: I wouldn't have it any other way. It's football. I came in [to the NFL] in the seventh round. I'm used to proving myself. I've been proving myself since I was knee-high to a duck. I relish it. I relish the journey. I relish the process that it takes to go about this process. I'm loving it. I'm loving getting up at 5:45 and doing what I need to do and leaving late in the afternoon. I'm loving it, because this is what it takes to get to where you want to go.

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