Marqise Lee: “Looking for the first game”

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee catches a pass during warm ups before the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee catches a pass during warm ups before the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

ATLANTA, Ga. – Marqise Lee said he’s ahead of schedule.

That’s good news for the Jaguars, with the better news being that the veteran wide receiver is confident he will be ready for the 2019 regular season.

“Of course, I’m looking for the first game,” Lee said while attending Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. “I don’t plan on sitting out next year. That’s out.”

Lee, projected to be a starting wide receiver for the Jaguars last season, instead missed the entire season with a knee injury sustained in a Preseason Week 3 victory over Atlanta. He said this week he is ahead of schedule in his return but doesn’t know the exact timetable for being cleared for full participation in practice.

“I feel like I’m a little bit ahead of schedule, from what I’ve been told,” Lee said. “I’m still taking it a day at a time. I had a big knee surgery, so at the end of the day I’m taking it slow. I know when I want to be back playing and exactly the day I want to be playing.

“Once that day comes up, I’ll be prepared. Until then, I’ll take it slow and attack my rehab as much as I can.”

He called his rehabilitation process “very difficult.”

“At the beginning of it, I had a hard time dealing with it – I can honestly say,” Lee said. “The more I sat back and thought, I realized, ‘It happened for a reason.’ There’s something out there I needed to learn, and there are a lot of things. Throughout the process, I’ve been sitting down and reading and trying to learn about the game and about myself. Hopefully, it will pay off throughout next year.”

Lee, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, caught 56 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns in 2017, and was perhaps the team’s best third-down receiver. Coaches also considered him key to the team’s running game and was its best run-blocker among receivers.

Lee called having to sit out the entire season, and watching the Jaguars struggle in his absence, “sickening, especially knowing the potential we had as a team.”

“We fell short this year,” Lee said. “We had a lot of injuries, which is clearly no excuse because in the NFL you have them. But we fell short and we have to come back stronger next year. As far as watching from the outside, it’s sickening.

“Besides us losing, I’m just sick that I couldn’t be out there contributing to anything. My teammates know: My thing is being out there and giving my all for them. Not being able to do that last year was difficult for me.”

Lee agreed with teammates that despite a 5-11 finish last season the Jaguars aren’t far from contending next season.

“We’re not worried,” Lee said. “We had a lot of situations this year we had to deal with that we kind of fell short and couldn’t deal with it – a lot of adversity. It’s a learning situation as far as the NFL. Now, if we get into a situation we’ll know how to handle it – or from now on, we probably wouldn’t get in that situation.

“Everybody just has to come out healthy and focus on what we need to focus on. Next year will be a better year.”

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