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Open Locker Room: Bortles seeking balance


JACKSONVILLE – Mistakes matter, but so does balance.

Blake Bortles remains focused on both, and that was something the second-year quarterback discussed as the Jaguars held a rare Tuesday practice with the team juggling its schedule to work around Thanksgiving.

Bortles, speaking to the media Tuesday, said has been the case all season he wants to minimize interceptions. At the same time, he doesn't want to overthink the issue.

"I think as a quarterback it's something you've always got to be conscious of," Bortles said Tuesday as the Jaguars (4-6) prepared to play the San Diego Chargers (2-8) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

"And then obviously as a quarterback that's turned the ball over you want to have kind of a mindset about taking care of the ball and being careful with it, but you don't want to overthink it and stop taking shots."

Bortles has improved his touchdowns-interceptions ration significantly from his rookie season. He has 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions through 10 games compared to 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. He is on pace to pass for 4,196 yards this season.

He also has continued to show a knack for playing well late in games, leading the Jaguars to four come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter this season.

He completed 21 of 30 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown with an interception in a 19-13 victory over Tennessee this past Thursday, and also lost a fumble on a quarterback sneak. His five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas with 3:30 was the game-winning score.

"The way I go about it is I don't want to turn the ball over," Bortles said. "But it's going to happen. It's inevitable. It's part of the game, part of playing the position. So, I think more than anything being able to kind of quickly recovery, move past it and not do it again."

Bortles on Sunday will make his 24th NFL start. His first start came on September 28, 2014 – Week 4 of last season – in San Diego. He completed 29 of 37 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, but said what he remembered was two interceptions by Chargers safety Eric Weddle.

"That's about it," he said with a laugh. "So, I'll try not to let that happen again."

Bortles was asked how far he had come in 23 games since.

"I think a long ways," he said. "I think a lot of things have changed. I think a lot of it is attributed to (offensive coordinator) Greg Olson and (quarterbacks coach) Nathaniel Hackett. They've done an unbelievable job with this offense, teaching it and kind of allowing us to grow and develop into it."

The victory over Tennessee moved the Jaguars to within two games of .500, and also left them a game out of first place in the AFC South. Indianapolis (5-5) and Houston (5-5) both won Sunday to remain in a tie for the division lead.

"Everybody I think realizes the big picture of things." Bortles said. "You always pay attention to teams in your division. Whether it's habit or not, whenever you see Tennessee, Houston and Indy you kind of just double-take and see how they're doing because you know they're in our division.

"But we're not worried about what's going on outside this building. We'll take care of everything that's in front of us."

The Jaguars this week adjusted their normal schedule to allow Thursday to be a day off. Whereas they usually would practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, they are practicing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Also around the Jaguars Tuesday:

*Otto linebacker Dan Skuta said he doubts he will play Sunday, though he hasn't ruled out the possibility. Skuta, after missing the Jaguars' November 15 game against the Ravens with a groin injury, played two quarters against the Titans Thursday before leaving. He said Tuesday the injury probably needs more than the 10 days rest he gave it between injuring it October 8 and playing October 19, which makes him unlikely for Sunday. …

*Offensive guard Zane Beadles has been cleared to practice on a limited basis after sustaining a concussion on the last offensive play Thursday. "Pretty much when I woke up the next day symptoms were gone," Beadles said. "I've been pretty good since then and just going through the protocol." Beadles said having 10 days between the Titans and Chargers will be good not only for the concussion, but for knee and foot injuries with which he has been dealing. "Having a few days off was awesome," Beadles said. "The body's feeling pretty good today."

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