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No reps for Brunell

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Jimmy Smith and Mark Brunell were back on the practice field today, but indications are the most prolific passing combination in Jaguars history will not be in the huddle together on Sunday.

Rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich took almost all of the snaps from center in practice today. David Garrard took the remaining few, while Brunell was reduced to sideline throwing.

"I threw the ball; didn't get any reps but felt really, really good," Brunell said.

The veteran quarterback said he is recovered from the cut on his left elbow, is ready to play and will be disappointed if he is not in the starting lineup on Sunday when the Jaguars host the San Diego Chargers.

Head coach Jack Del Rio would not name his starting quarterback during this afternoon's press conference. "We'll reassess the quarterback situation tomorrow," Del Rio said.

That's the same process Del Rio followed last week, when Brunell was deactivated for the game in Houston and Leftwich made his professional debut as a starter. Consensus of opinion is Leftwich is heading toward his second career start this Sunday.

"If it's me Sunday, I think I'll be a whole lot better," Leftwich said, referring to an improved performance over his 17 of 36 for 231 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in the 24-20 loss to the Texans.

And if it's Leftwich under center Sunday, all indications are he'll have Smith in the lineup for a limited number of plays. Del Rio spoke in terms of working Smith back into action following the star wide receiver's four-game drug suspension.

"It was good to see 82 back out there. He looked to be in decent shape. It was a good step back," Del Rio said of Smith, who met with the media today for the first time since leaving the Jaguars in August.

"The main thing I want to say is thanks to Wayne Weaver for giving me the chance to be here," Smith said.

He said he watched all four Jaguars games on television while in rehab, and though he wouldn't speak openly of the severity of his drug problem, he made no denials.

"That stuff is confidential. I'd rather focus on the future," he said.

When asked if he regrets having denied the legitimacy of a drug test administered by the police following a traffic violation in the fall of 2001, Smith said: "I regret everything in the past."

He reported his weight to be at 210 pounds, which would be on the light side; "probably the lightest I've ever been," he said. And he talked of being dedicated to recovery. "I've gotten over one hurdle and there are many other hurdles to jump," he said.

Of course, the first hurdle in reclaiming his football career could present itself this Sunday. The Jaguars will have until the end of this week to determine whether they will activate Smith for Sunday's game, or use the one-game roster exemption provided by the league.

Meanwhile, the game is certain to be declared a TV blackout tomorrow. "We hope to do enough to get people to come out and fill it up and let people see (our games) who can't come," Del Rio said.

T.J. Slaughter will get his first start of the season, at strongside linebacker, replacing Danny Clark. "He played very well in the role he was given last week and we want to increase it," Del Rio said.

Asked to evaluate defensive end Hugh Douglas' performance over the first four games, Del Rio called it "OK. Sacks tend to come in bunches and we're looking for a bunch soon," he added.

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