JACKSONVILLE – Lance Kearse didn't plan this. Not by a long shot.
But although Kearse hasn't played football in nine years – yes, nine – and even though he's a bit rusty in the lingo, he's an athletic guy who physically can do NFL-type things.
So, who needs to plan, anyway?
Kearse, a cousin of former NFL Pro Bowl defensive end Javon Kearse and a former standout basketball player from Virginia Commonwealth and Eckerd College, is working with the Jaguars in minicamp this week on a tryout basis. And his hopes this week?
Well, they're the same as anyone around the facility in his capacity.
"Hopefully, I make the team," he said with a smile after the first of three Jaguars 2013 mandatory minicamp practices Tuesday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
While it's too early to judge Kearse's chances, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Kearse's athletic ability is impressive.
"He can run," Bradley said. "He has great length, but he has a learning curve. We like some of the talents that he shows. (Tight ends coach) Ron (Middleton) was spending some time with him to get caught up, so we can get him on tape to see how he competes."
Kearse said he was helped in the tryout process by former Florida running back Earnest Graham, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"He saw me running and catching and said, 'Wow, you're pretty athletic – I'm going to try to get you a contact,'" Kearse said. "I ended up here."
Kearse carries the sickle-cell trait, and though he struggled with the effects of that during high school and at VCU, he learned of the condition only after transferring to Eckerd. He said he now monitors the situation with diet and hydration, and that it no longer limits him athletically.
"I know how to monitor it now," he said. "When I was in high school and college, I knew nothing about it. I'd pass out, cramp up and have to be rushed to the hospital. Now, I'm aware of it. I know how to treat it so we're good."
Kearse's learning curve, as Bradley said, will be steep. His week this week has been spent partly learning terminology basic for more experienced players, but when asked if wearing a helmet for the first time in nearly a decade felt heavy, he said it did not.
"It feels perfect – it feels like I belong," he said, adding that while he had no other NFL tryouts scheduled it's his hope that no more are needed. "It's the only one right now. Hopefully, it's the only one I have to come to and I make the team."
JONES-DREW ADDRESSES TEAMMATES
Bradley said he likes Maurice Jones-Drew's approach this week.
Jones-Drew, who spoke to the media on Monday for the first time since a May 26 incident in which he has been accused of punching a security guard, spoke to the team Monday night, Bradley said.
Bradley said he was going to bring up Jones-Drew talking to the team, but that the three-time Pro Bowl running back suggested it before the Head Coach had the chance.
"He did a good job with it," Bradley said. "I brought it up, but really before I started to go that way he said he'd like to address the team. It goes back to what we said at the beginning with our players, that we're all accountable to one another."
Bradley also said he likes where Jones-Drew is with his conditioning and rehabilitation. Jones-Drew, who has been training in South Florida since late May, is attending minicamp, but is not working while rehabilitating the foot injury that kept him out the final 10 games last season.
VIEW FROM THE OZONE
Jones-Drew was in the news again this week, this time talking about what he can't talk about regarding what happened in St. Augustine recently. But forget that for now. More pressing are the next few weeks, when Jones-Drew will face one of the biggest challenges of his multi-Pro Bowl career. Jones-Drew right now is irritated with people questioning whether he can play at a high level next season. He said those critics actually bothered him more than all the talk about the off-field issues. Still, his health and conditioning might be the biggest question around the Jaguars come late July. He is still rehabilitating the foot that cost him most of last season, and he is still dropping the weight he added during three months in a boot post-surgery. As always, Jones-Drew is confident. He has overcome injuries before, and believes he will be 100 percent when training camp opens. He said several times Monday he hates being a distraction. Not being a distraction in July will mean showing up in shape – and ready to run. His history is he can do that, that he is motivated by doubters. That motivation often yields special results. Come July, the Jaguars really need history to repeat.
"It was a challenging practice. Each day we try to find challenges for our players, ones that we can place on them. We like to add as much pressure as we can, get them to where they feel like they're spent, then add a little bit more. I feel like that's what we did today."
--- Head Coach Gus Bradley
The Jaguars will hold the second of two 2013 mandatory minicamp practices at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields Wednesday 1:10 p.m. The session is closed to the public, with Thursday's 11 a.m. practice open to the public.
AROUND THE JAGUARS
*Jaguars coaches and staff on Tuesday wore T-Shirts to practice honoring J.T. Townsend, the former Episcopal High School safety who died last week nine years after being paralyzed during a high school football game. Townsend had been active in the community, starting a foundation to raise money to assist others with disabilities, and also had been close with many Jaguars players. "People said, 'Gus, you had a chance to meet him three times,'" Bradley said. "I said, 'It really only took once and you could feel what he was all about.' One of our players bought the T-shirts in support of the foundation. We talked about wearing them and hands-down the coaches all agreed. It was to pay tribute to a special young man. It was a privilege to meet him."
*Jones-Drew sat out of practice (foot), as did quarterback Jordan Rodgers (sports hernia) and defensive end Jason Babin (groin). Wide receiver Tobais Palmer did not attend practice because of a family situation. "He was excused," Bradley said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him."
*The Jaguars on Tuesday were awarded quarterback Mike Kafka off waivers from New England. The team waived tight end Matt Veldman.
*The Jaguars worked for about two hours, twenty minutes in the afternoon following a morning walkthrough on the first day of minicamp. Bradley said the third-team and tryout players got more repetitions Thursday than in many of the organized team activities practices. "That was by design, to get everybody on film and get a chance to evaluate everybody," Bradley said.