JACKSONVILLE – They're not talking dates yet – not anything specific, anyway.
That doesn't mean Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller aren't sure about their goals. They plan to play next season, and play well.
But for now, as they return from knee injuries sustained late last season, the Jaguars' starting defensive tackles are worried about what they can control. That's how hard they work, and that's sticking to the plan laid out by doctors and trainers.
On that front? So far, so good.
"I feel good – I feel real good," Marks, six weeks removed from reconstructive surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, said on Monday while participating in a Pros versus G.I. Joes event at EverBank Field.
Miller, participating in the same event at EverBank Field Monday – an event that featured Jaguars players and members of the United States Armed Forces playing online video games against each other – underwent surgery to repair torn knee cartilage shortly after the season.
"I'm on schedule," Miller said. "I feel good. You have to follow the protocol. I was lucky enough to stitch mine and not have to take anything out. That just prolongs my career, and it will heal like it was never hurt. I have to be smart with it, and that's what we're doing. … Right now, I'm taking it easy and that's the hardest part."
And while each is asked often about a timetable for returning, each said Monday he's not thinking about a return date. At least not yet.
"I just want to continue to work every day without wondering when I'll be back," Marks said. "My mindset is I'll be ready. Hopefully, by the time training camp comes (in late July), if I'm not ready for a game, I can go through practice with the guys as far as individual instead of working on the side by myself the entire time.
"For me, that's my mindset. I'm going to continue to think that way."
Miller said he is confident he will be ready for the regular season and training camp, and said he hasn't ruled out working earlier than that.
"I know I'll definitely be there for training camp," Miller said. "You want to be out there because you have younger guys you want to teach, and you want to put the work in that everyone else is doing. Being on the side, it's hard to feel like you're a part of the team – even in the offseason. That's the toughest part about it, but you have to be smart, listen to what they say and try to contribute in other ways."
Marks and Miller started a combined 60 games over the past two seasons, with Marks starting all 32 games and Miller starting 14 in each season. They are the projected starting duo at tackle, and the foundation of a defensive line that was perhaps the team's strongest unit last season.
They are more than that, though.
Off the field, they are friends, having known each other during the pre-draft process in 2008 and quickly becoming close after signing with the Jaguars as free agents in the 2013 offseason.
Now, the duo is pushing each other through rehabilitation processes that can be as difficult mentally as physically.
"We push each other every single day," Marks said. "We have to. I know Roy, and Roy knows me. There are ways we can push each other that the strength staff or training staff can't do. Maybe one guy comes in and he's not in the mood. I can say, 'Well, I don't care if you're in the mood.' The training staff may care if you're in the mood; I don't care … We're going to do this work so we can both be back."
Miller said he knew this offseason would be unique when Marks sustained his torn ACL in the regular-season finale, a game Miller missed with his own knee injury.
"I saw him walking off the field and I was like, 'Oh, man,'" Miller said. "In the locker room, I said, 'Bro, we're going to be rehabbing together.' But we push each other and that helps. We're going through the same type of protocol. I've been able to tell him some stuff he might go through throughout the process.
"We're just trying to keep each other up, and keep each other motivated and focused on where we want to be."
Marks said his biggest challenge has been dealing with the frustration associated with the process.
"You get frustrated, because you think you can do everything," Marks said. "You feel like you can do whatever you want to do. I'm going to roll with it, and continue to do what I'm supposed to do and hopefully I'm back when it's time."
And unsurprisingly, Marks – always quick with a smile and a laugh – said his spirits overall have been positive through the process.
"If I'm down every day, then I'm just down with a bad knee," Marks said. "I try to stay in high spirits. My thing is once we come back it will show not only us but other people that if you can stay positive, you can come back."