JACKSONVILLE – The NFL's most-discussed hand won't be an issue Sunday.
That's Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone's thought on a hand injury sustained by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Wednesday. The injury was to Brady's right hand, his throwing hand.
Not that the specifics mattered to Marrone.
"I'm sure he can probably throw it left-handed if he had a problem with the right hand," Marrone said Thursday as the AFC South Champion Jaguars (12-6) prepared to play the AFC East Champion Patriots (14-3) in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, Sunday at 3:05 p.m.
That thought is a reflection of Marrone's respect for Brady, a five-time Super Bowl champion who many believe will be the NFL's Most Valuable Player this season.
Marrone in Thursday offered extensive thoughts on the natural talent of Brady, who he faced four times in Buffalo as a head coach in 2013-2014 and multiple times as an assistant before that:
"It's always amazing when you go out [during pregame warmups] and watch him. You see a lot of quarterbacks who have to go out and have to warm up. He can literally go pick up a ball and throw it and you would think that he's ready to go. When you're in this league, you watch a lot of quarterbacks warm up and they all warm up and get themselves ready to go. I really think he's one of the most naturally gifted throwers that I personally have ever seen. He can pick the ball up any day and just throw it."
Marrone during his 20-minute press conference Thursday praised Brady and the Patriots' offense extensively. Asked about the Jaguars' second-ranked defense allowing 42 points in an AFC Divisional Playoff victory over Pittsburgh this past Sunday, he said at least three of the Steelers' touchdowns came more because of high-level plays by the Pittsburgh offense.
Marrone on Thursday emphasized that the Patriots' offense has similar ability.
"Sometimes, you have to say 'That's a great play,''' Marrone said. "It wasn't like we weren't on it. …. They have the same type of capability, making those plays. … We have to understand that they're going to be able to make plays like that and we have to be ready – get our head around and do things of that nature if we're in man [coverage]. In zone coverage, we've got to do a good job with our eyes and be able to break well."
Marrone was asked if he counseled players to not be frustrated when such plays occur.
"I want them to be frustrated," Marrone said. "I want them to say, 'I've got to come back and do it again. I've got to make a play.'''
Also around the Jaguars Thursday:
*Marrone during his press conference showed the gathered media a hand-made book he received Thursday week from first graders at The Bolles School in Jacksonville entitled "Want to beat the Patriots? Here's how … Advice from your No. 1 fans in Bolles First Grade." Marrone said of the book, "I've got to get through this … this has the answers that maybe I'm looking for on how we can stop the Patriots …" Marrone added with a smile, "That's the one thing I will say about this week. I find it hard to believe that so many people have an opinion on how to beat the New England Patriots and no really has done that." …
*Marrone on the loyalty Jaguars players show quarterback Blake Bortles: "A lot of times when the quarterback gets a lot of heat, it takes a lot off the other players. Everyone from the media standpoint is going after the quarterback and sometimes people sit in the locker room and go, 'Phew … better him than me.' I think our players felt what he was going through and watched how he handled it. I think it's a credit to Blake and I think it's a credit to the rest of the team because they really came up big in supporting him. That's not something where I went up in front of the team and said, 'Hey, we need to support him.' That happened naturally. Blake never complained. He never pointed a finger. He never blamed anyone. He didn't say, 'I've had X amount of coordinators, two head coaches … whatever …' He didn't go through that laundry list of the things he could have gone through to explain why maybe you're not performing as well as you should. That's hard to do when you stand up here and you're answering questions about why you didn't perform well or this person said that about you. His toughness, mentally and physically, is one the many things I love about him." …
*Free safety Tashaun Gipson (foot) was the lone Jaguars player listed as not expected to practice on the team's pre-practice injury report Thursday. "He's trending in the right way," Marrone said of Gipson. "We'll see how he does when he gets out there.'' Guard Patrick Omameh, the only Jaguars player other than Gipson who didn't practice Wednesday, was expected to practice Thursday. ….
*Bortles (right wrist), running back Leonard Fournette (ankle), safety Barry Church (shoulder), middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (abdomen) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (ankle) all were listed on the pre-practice injury report as expected to practice. Bortles has been on the injury report with the wrist issue all season without missing a practice or a game. …