JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone addressed the big issue first.
And when it came to the ongoing situation involving Telvin Smith, the Jaguars' head coach made this much clear on Friday:
The person is more important than the game.
"For me, I kind of put football to the side," Marrone said shortly after noon Friday following the first practice of the Jaguars' 2019 rookie minicamp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.
"That, to me, is an afterthought right now in concern with Telvin."
Smith, a sixth-year veteran weak-side linebacker and a Pro Bowl/second-team All-Pro selection following the 2017 season, said Thursday via Instagram that he did not plan to play football in 2019.
"It was said to me from a great coach, that in order for the man to be his best, he must get his world in order," his Instagram post read. "At this time I must take time away from this game & get my world in order. I must give this time back to myself, my family, & my health. I appreciate all the support I will & will not get. I just ask y'all respect my decision to not play football this season. I know the rumors of trade talk came about, but I started my career in Jacksonville & the day I do decide to call in quits it will be right here in Duval. I love y'all & even in my time off it's #10toesdown y'all feel me!!! Love."
Smith has not been participating in the team's ongoing 2019 voluntary offseason program, and he had not communicated with team officials during that time. Marrone addressed the Smith situation at the beginning of his Friday rookie minicamp availability.
"Obviously, I have not spoken to him," Marrone said. "You found out the same information that I found out at the same that I found it out."
Marrone was asked if Smith would be welcome back sometime this summer.
"Hopefully, we'll have some sort of communication before then – and if we do … yeah, that would be great," he said.
Images from the first day of rookie minicamp.
A team statement Thursday said there would be no comment regarding Smith's statement until team officials communicated with Smith. Marrone's post-practice comments Friday were the first by a Jaguars official since Smith's announcement.
"I really believe in my heart that Telvin knows that we're here to support him in any which way," Marrone said. "Not just myself, but the coaches, the organization, his teammates. I'm sure he's aware of that. All we can do is make sure we pray. He knows that if he needs some support, obviously we're here for him."
Marrone also discussed needing to be prepared for such circumstances.
"You're prepared for things; you really are," he said. "You've got to be ready for anything – injuries, retirements, stepping away … whatever it may be."
The Jaguars selected outside linebacker Quincy Williams from Murray State in Round 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft late last month. Since the end of the 2018 season they added multiple veteran linebackers, signing Jake Ryan from the Green Bay Packers early in free agency and signing veterans D.J. Alexander, Najee Goode and Ramik Wilson shortly after the April 25-27 draft. They also claimed James Onwualu shortly after the draft.
"We've done a good job," Marrone said. "We were able to bring in a couple of linebackers with D.J., Najee and Ramik that we're happy with. Obviously, we have Quincy Williams in here now. We're going to work with those guys and we feel good."
Marrone was asked if Smith appeared to be struggling with any issues late last season.
"No," Marrone said. "Telvin's a strong man. He feels like a lot of the guys on this team – that can handle their situations. We just want to make sure that everyone knows we're there to support them. If they reach out—and hopefully each player does; not just Telvin – to know they don't have to do anything alone. We're here for them.
"You've got to take football and put it to the side. It's not about football. It's making sure he's OK. That's the part we want to be able to help him with.
"Obviously, we respect his decision. I know in my heart that he knows not only us as coaches but his teammates and the organization … we're here to support him in any way we can."
Marrone also addressed whether he had an idea before Thursday Smith might not play in 2019.
"Anytime you don't have communication, you really don't know," he said. "You have to be prepared in this profession for anything. Being a head coach for this long, when things come up you don't expect, you kind of learn early on that you have to expect everything."