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Open Locker Room: Bortles Time


JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles stood before a backdrop in a hallway at EverBank Field.

That in itself wasn't usual. It was the circumstance in which he stood that made that and a whole lot of other things notable early Wednesday afternoon.

The circumstance was this:

He is a starting quarterback now. That means he's the guy. For now and for the foreseeable future. So, when the rookie No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft stood in front of the Jaguars' backdrop surrounded by reporters and cameras, the questions may have been familiar. But there was at least a little unusual about the situation.

The questions this time weren't about how he felt backing up Chad Henne …

This time the question was obvious: "Are you ready?"

He smiled.

"I'm going to go out there prepare this week and do everything I've done," Bortles said as the Jaguars (0-3) prepared to play the San Diego Chargers (2-1) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

"I'm going to do everything I possibly can to get ready and then I'm going to go play football. That's part of it. We're going to play Sunday whether I'm ready or not, so I may as well get as ready as I possibly can."

Bortles' first press conference as the Jaguars' starting quarterback came the same day the team made two defensive changes, moving fourth-year veteran J.T. Thomas to the starting Otto linebacker position and moving second-year veteran Josh Evans to starting free safety.

Thomas started two games for the Jaguars last season, with Evans – a sixth-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft – starting 11 games. Thomas replaced second-year veteran LaRoy Reynolds in the lineup, with Evans replacing third-year veteran Winston Guy.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley likely will discuss those changes following the Jaguars' practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields.

He likely will discuss Bortles, too, because that remained the major topic around the locker room on Wednesday as the rookie prepared for his first NFL start.

"You just really have to go out and do it," Henne said. "There's pressure and expectations, especially for him to be the guy. My advice is, 'Believe in the game plan, know what you're doing out there and go to the right places with the football and things will happen for you.''''

Bortles, after spending the first two games as a backup behind Henne, entered a 44-17 loss to the Colts at halftime this past Sunday, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Bradley named him the starter immediately after.

"He does some things I really like," veteran cornerback Alan Ball said. "When you have a guy who's a competitor there's no telling whether they're ready or whether they're not ready. When they step in under those lights they'll do the things they need to do to compete.

"That's what I like about him, his competitiveness and his composure and I think he's going to do a good job out there."

Bortles said his preparation won't change in terms of time. He said he arrived at the stadium around 6 a.m. to review video and left around 7 p.m. as the backup, and he will hold to that schedule. He also will take the vast majority of first-team repetitions in practice, whereas he was taking approximately two first-team reps per period previously.

"Will nothing else change?" he was asked.

"I get to talk to you guys (the media) today," he said with a laugh, adding seriously, "It's a little different mindset. You go and look at yourself (as the backup) whereas now it's our offense and our plays and I need to run them at the rate we need to run them at."

Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he doubts the offensive approach will change with Bortles in the lineup, though he said plays will naturally gear toward Bortles' strengths.

"If it is going to change very much I'm not going to say it today," Fisch said. "It's not going to change very much. We like to go out there and we like to run our offense a certain way. He stepped in without many practice reps and ran the game plan accordingly.  He's going to continue to execute what we ask him to do, and with that we're obviously going to tailor what we're going to call to his strengths."

Bortles said blocking out distractions hasn't been a huge issue this week.

"I think most of the people that I talk to understand my sole focus is on this team and doing whatever I can to help this team be our best," he said. "I think people understand that and know I don't have a lot of time to do other things or be talking a lot."

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Sherrod Martin was scheduled to practice for the first time since being re-signed to the active roster Tuesday. A veteran safety and a second-round selection by Carolina in the 2009 NFL Draft, Martin spent the offseason, training camp and preseason with the Jaguars before being released in the final cuts before the regular season. The team waived/injured fourth-year veteran Chris Prosinski (triceps/elbow)  Tuesday. "It's a blessed opportunity," he said, adding that having been here this offseason helps him know the Jaguars' scheme. "It's easier because I'm familiar with the lingo, so I can follow it and just work at it." …

*Tight end Clay Harbor said he expects to be work full at practice Wednesday. He missed the preseason and the first three regular-season games with a calf injury and worked limited in practice last week before missing the loss to the Colts. "Hopefully, everything goes as plan and I'll be good to go this week," Harbor said. "It's been a long process and we're finally to the point where we feel comfortable enough going out there and playing. It feels good." …

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