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Leftwich will be starter


The other shoe fell today. Coach Jack Del Rio announced to reporters this afternoon that Byron Leftwich will be the Jaguars' starting quarterback this Sunday.

"It's a combination of a lot of things. Injury plays into it and I feel it's our best option of winning this Sunday," Del Rio said. "He's been great," the rookie coach added of Mark Brunell, "but in my estimation Byron gives us the best chance to win."

Del Rio's remarks left reporters to believe it was more than a one-week announcement. Is this the end of the Brunell era? Is this the official move into the Leftwich era that media and fans had come to expect?

"My responsibility is to put the best people on the field. We're going to play the best guys," Del Rio said.

When asked if he was under any pressure from the front office to name Leftwich the starter, Del Rio added: "Not at all by the front office. This is my decision."

Brunell is officially listed as "questionable" on the Jaguars injury report. He suffered a severe cut on his left elbow on Sept. 21 in Indianapolis and it caused him to miss last Sunday's game in Houston, where Leftwich made his first professional start. Yesterday, Brunell said he was ready to play, but he has taken no snaps from center in two days of practice. Almost all of the snaps have gone to Leftwich for the second consecutive week.

"He's a quick decision-maker. He gets to his back step and the ball is out," Del Rio said in praise of Leftwich's skills, which made him the seventh pick of last April's NFL draft. Of course, Leftwich is Del Rio's first draft choice as head coach of the Jaguars.

Del Rio said he had yet to inform Leftwich of his starter's status, then added: "I don't have to have a big sit-down with him to let him know he's the starter. He's been preparing as though he's going to be the starter."

The Jaguars declined to cut Brunell before the start of the regular season, which would've saved the team $6.75 million in salary and salary cap room. Del Rio said he did not regret that decision.

"You don't get to go back and have hindsight. You get to make decisions and go forward," he said.

"We have a big task ahead of us, but you don't get there in one play. That's the significance of chopping wood," the coach added of an oak stump and axe that sit in the middle of the Jaguars locker room. Wood chips were strewn about the floor this afternoon, and a large section of wood had been chopped away since yesterday.

"We understand where we're headed as an organization," Del Rio said.

Maybe everyone will understand, now.

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