JACKSONVILLE – He likes how he's feeling, and that's big.
Travis Etienne Jr. waited a long time to feel that way, and the Jaguars' second-year running back said Tuesday said that's why he's optimistic these days.
"It felt awesome just to be out there running again," he said Tuesday, the second day of the Jaguars' 2022 offseason program.
Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft, is a major Jaguars storyline entering the '22 offseason for a couple of reasons. One is that his versatility is expected to make him a key part of a versatile offense under new Head Coach Doug Pederson.
Another is that Etienne is returning from a Lisfranc injury – an injury sustained last preseason that cost him his entire rookie season, and one from which he feels close to fully recovered after nine months of rehabilitating.
"I'm really excited to have him back," said Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a teammate of Etienne's at Clemson University from 2018-2020. "Obviously I know how talented he is, but also knowing that last year wasn't the easiest thing, having to sit out.
"You go somewhere together, you're ready to make an impact and play, and you get hurt in a preseason game … that's tough. I know he missed being out there. I'm obviously excited to have him back and I know he's ready to do that, too."
Etienne said he feel he is 85-to-90 percent recovered.
"I'm not doing everything, but I'm doing the majority of the stuff," he said Tuesday. "Maybe like two or three weeks ago, I felt like I could really get back to myself – just being out there running full speed and feeling fast."
Etienne added, "I feel like I'm really close. It's just really being cleared by the doctors. I feel like I was 10 percent three weeks ago. It's just going through that process and going through the day-to-day and doing what they ask me to do."
Etienne, a two-time consensus All-America at Clemson and a three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, participated in the Jaguars' offseason program following the '21 draft. Then-Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer at the time said the Jaguars planned to use him as a hybrid wide receiver/running back.
Etienne then participated in training camp before sustaining a season-ending Lisfranc injury in an August 23 preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints. Surgery followed, and rehabilitation began soon thereafter.
"The most difficult thing is just time – how long it takes to actually get back to yourself, and knowing how far the season is away," Etienne said. "At the end of the day, you have to fall in love with the mundane and waking up every day knowing where you want to be at the end of the day and putting in that work."
Etienne, who finished his career as the all-time ACC leader in rushing yards (4,952), total touchdowns (78), rushing touchdowns (70), was considered one of the 2021 NFL Draft's most explosive – and versatile – players. Lawrence said he expects Etienne's speed and explosiveness to help a Jaguars offense that ranked 27th in the NFL in total yards (305.4 points per game) and 32nd in points last season (14.9).
"I just know he's going to add a spark for us," Lawrence said.
Etienne said he has yet to speak extensively with offensive coordinator Press Taylor or Pederson about his specific role, but said he feels he can play a versatile role similar to that which he played at Clemson – moving around in the offense and contributing as a runner and a receiver.
"I feel like if Coach wants to use me as that guy, I feel like I definitely have the athleticism to do that," he said. "I'm sure they plan on getting the ball in my hands. I feel like I'm a special player with the ball in my hands. As long as I get the ball, I'm good.
"The biggest thing I want to do is get out there Week 1 and tear it up – and just be myself again, honestly. However Coach wants to use me, I'm willing to do it.
"I just want to help the team win games."