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Minnesota likely target


The Jaguars are likely to have starting quarterback Byron Leftwich back in action before the end of November. That was the news from Jack Del Rio's press conference on Monday afternoon.

"Good news reported from the doc. (Leftwich) will not need any type of surgery. He's healing as expected. His approach this week will be to remain in a brace and on crutches until Friday. We will rule him 'out' for this weekend," Del Rio told reporters.

Leftwich's injured left knee was re-examined by head team physician Dr. Carlos Tandron on Monday and it was found that the healing process is underway. Del Rio wouldn't detail the specific nature of Leftwich's injury but it is obviously not as severe as first feared.

"He's probably 'doubtful,' at best 'questionable,' for Tennessee (Nov. 21), and most likely to return for Minnesota (Nov. 28)," Del Rio said of Leftwich. "All in all, as good a news as we could hope to hear."

Leftwich was injured on Oct. 31 when Houston defensive tackle Gary Walker crashed into the quarterback's left knee. David Garrard replaced Leftwich for two plays. This time, it's likely Garrard will replace Leftwich for two games.

"We've invested a lot of time in David running our offense. We'll get Quinn (Gray) a backup share of work," Del Rio said.

When asked which ligament in Leftwich's knee was injured, Del Rio said: "He's got a sprained knee. I'm not going to get into what ligaments are involved. The whole idea was to let him heal, get the swelling down and, if we could, avoid surgery."

Leftwich has a reputation for playing with pain. He certainly was worthy of that reputation at Marshall, where his offensive linemen literally carried him downfield following a pass completion in a game in which Leftwich suffered a left shin injury.

Del Rio, however, made a point of saying he would not risk Leftwich's future for the sake of rushing him back to action. "We're going to do the right thing, the smart thing. We will determine, with his input. We will be sound with our decision-making," Del Rio said.

"I'm not going to look at the target date. When I'm able to function pain-free, I'll be out there. It's too early to know right now," Leftwich told reporters. "It's not great news because I'm sure I won't play this week."

Leftwich only missed one game in college.

"You kind of feel like you're letting your teammates down a little. That's the tough part," Leftwich said of the prospect of being sidelined.

Garrard told reporters his expectations for his first start since the 2002 regular-season finale is "to run the offense the way the coaches and I want to run it; to minimize mistakes and move the ball."

The third-year pro said has no illusions of seizing the starting job from Leftwich. "I was told if you're hurt you can't lose your job to injury. This is Byron's team," Garrard said.

A lot of fans are casting their vocal support Garrard's way. "I want to see these fans after I have a couple of tough plays. Right now, Quinn Gray is the most popular guy in Jacksonville," Garrard said, referring to Gray's promotion to the backup job.

"I've waited two-and-a-half years. I'm not sure how many games I'll be starting, but I want to be able to seize the moment. A win is all I want. Stats don't matter," Garrard added.

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