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Leftwich passes eye test


The guy walking into the room looked like a wide receiver, but he was the quarterback. Whoa! Is that Byron Leftwich?

Yeah, it's Leftwich; a lot less of Leftwich than ever before. This is the new and improved Leftwich; slim and trim and ready to play some football.

So, how much do you weigh? he was asked.

"Let's just say I'm in almost close to perfect shape," Leftwich answered, laughing. "It's the best shape I've ever been in, by far. It's the best I've ever felt since I played football. I'm ready to roll," he added.

The first training camp practice is now only three days away. Jaguars players will report to Alltel Stadium on Friday. Leftwich was in the locker room this morning, putting a final buff on his new body.

"You take this so serious that when you're away, you're thinking of football," he said. "I just think I'm getting older and I understand more what I have to do to be the best football player I can be. You understand it's the little things that determine winning and losing. Once you experience the playoffs, it makes you want it more. It makes you appreciate it more."

Leftwich got a taste of the postseason last season, in a 28-3 loss in New England. He was playing in his first game in seven weeks, after sustaining a broken ankle in Arizona on Nov. 27.

For all intents and purposes, Leftwich's season ended that day. He was on a roll; playing the best football of his life when he injured himself while attempting to avoid the Cardinals' pass-rush.

Leftwich was replaced by David Garrard, who led the Jaguars to a win that day and four more times in the final five games. Garrard played well enough in place of Leftwich to have a reasonable expectation of competing for the job this summer. Leftwich acknowledges the challenge, but holds firm to his grip on the starting job.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Leftwich said of Garrard's intention to compete for the job. "My understanding is that until somebody tells me different, I'm the quarterback of this football team.

"I'm happy to have someone like that. It's another great player on our football team. I never took (the job) for granted. I remember what it was like when I was a rookie and Mark Brunell was here. But no quarterback in this league can be successful looking over his shoulder," Leftwich added.

Leftwich's thoughts, instead, are on a season he expects to be the best of his career.

"I believe this is going to be my best year ever. Last year was our first year under a system. We know it better. I know it better," he said.

"Everybody's goal is to win a championship. There are steps to that. We have to start from step one. We can't look at step 50 right now. We know we've got a good football team," Leftwich added.

The Jaguars quarterback is one of many players who profess to be in exceptional physical condition. Veteran running back Fred Taylor has also said he's in the best condition of his life.

"Watch how many guys are in the best shapes of their careers. People were disappointed," Leftwich said, referring to the loss in the playoffs.

It's unlikely Jaguars fans will be disappointed when they get a look at Leftwich in training camp.

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