A ceremonious start to the Jaguars' new and improved offseason conditioning program featured a new and improved David Garrard, a new and improved commitment by the players and a newly-improved weight room and conditioning regimen that's intended to reverse the team's fortunes in 2009.
"He's working muscles you normally wouldn't work," veteran defensive end Reggie Hayward said of new strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson. "We're still lifting weights, but first you have to make sure the body is ready for that."
Richesson kicked off his conditioning program with a heavy dose of stretching and core-type exercise on Monday. Hayward, a no-show for last year's conditioning program, said there were no absences among the defensive linemen.
"Working here, you get to be with your teammates. I just wanted to change it up; go down there and see what Fred (Taylor) was doing," Hayward said of his absence a year ago, when Hayward elected to work out in south Florida with Taylor. Richesson's regimen, Hayward said, "is similar to what Fred Taylor did."
The Jaguars' first day of conditioning included a ceremony in which Baker County high school player Oshay Johnson, who was paralyzed during a practice early last season, was given a $20,000 check by Garrard on behalf of coach Jack Del Rio and the players in a weight-room presentation.
"He has inspired us and we want to make sure he is with us as we travel to the Super Bowl," said Garrard, who was joined in making the presentation by a large group of teammates. Garrard easily stood out in the crowd for the 15-20 pounds he's lost since the end of last season.
"The last time I was this size I was a junior in high school. I think I want to stay there (232). I think it'll make me swifter, quicker. Jack (Del Rio) always said that if you can get down to that size, I can almost guarantee you'll be a Pro Bowl quarterback," said Garrard, who played between 248-252 last year.
"Jack said it's going to help you be more than just faster. You're going to be a better leader, a better ballplayer," Garrard added.
The intent of Richesson's program is to build functional strength, "not just show muscles," Garrard said.
Del Rio announced late last season that he would expect 100 percent attendance in this offseason's conditioning program, which was not the case last year, when attendance sagged. It was seen as a reason for the decline in team chemistry.
"As adults, you don't like to be forced to do anything, but it's for a good reason: We had a rocky season last year. When you lose, you start to tighten up. When you lose, they look at everything out of football," Hayward said.
Sean Considine, who was signed in free agency to compete for a starting job at strong safety, said he was glad to get back to the free-weights concept of his college days at Iowa. Considine said it helps get "your body acclimated to what you do on Sunday."
Considine was new General Manager Gene Smith's first free agent signing and Considine is viewed as a symbol of the high-character, over-achieving players Smith favors.
"Gene Smith epitomizes what I think of NFL football. He values character, hard work and determination. When you have leadership like that from the top, it trickles down," Considine said.
The NFL draft is fewer than three weeks away and Garrard was asked about rumors the Jaguars might be interested in picking a quarterback.
"It would mean we just have another quarterback on the roster. It's not like I'm not used to competition. Hopefully, we'd have a nice second-string or third-string guy," Garrard said with a wry smile.
The idea of selecting a wide receiver, however, produced a bigger smile.
"I definitely would love to have an addition to the wide receivers; a proven guy that once the ball gets in his hands anything can happen," Garrard said.
"I watched him play and he can definitely make mouths drop open. He definitely looks good to me. Jeremy Maclin looks good, too, and even the local guy," Garrard added, referring to Florida's Percy Harvin.
On Monday, as the Jaguars officially hit what Del Rio has termed the reset button, everything looked good.