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Open Locker Room: Gabbert feels "great"


JACKSONVILLE – The stitches are out, the hand is healed, so Blaine Gabbert once again is the Jaguars' starting quarterback.

And Gabbert said he's ready.

Gabbert, a third-year veteran who will start at quarterback for the Jaguars ' against Indianapolis Sunday, said Wednesday he expects the two weeks missed because of a lacerated throwing hand to benefit him upon his return to the lineup.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley named Gabbert the starter Monday.

"I feel great," Gabbert said early Wednesday afternoon as the Jaguars (0-3) prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts (2-1) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

"The last couple of weeks have kind of been a blessing in disguise, to let my hand heal. It gave me a different point of view, and an opportunity to watch things from a different perspective – to really kind of catch up on some of the mental reps and get a little extra preparation in the film room."

Also Wednesday, veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis was cleared to practice in full pads, giving the former Pro Bowl tight end a chance to play on Sunday. He has missed the first three games with a calf injury.

"I almost don't even want to be talking right now – I just want to go practice," Lewis said in the team's open locker room period shortly before practice began around 1:15 p.m. at the Florida Blue practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field.

"I'm just looking forward to getting back out there. It's been tough watching other people. I'm ready to get out there, do what I do, and hopefully add a spark to the offense."

Lewis is one of three starters to have missed time for the Jaguars' offense this season. Another is second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who will miss one more game while serving a four-game suspension to start the regular season.

The third starter to have missed time is Gabbert, who won the starting job midway through the preseason and started the regular-season opener against Kansas City, completing 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions.

He was sacked seven times in that game, and sustained a laceration in his throwing hand on the final series. The laceration required 15 stitches.

Gabbert practiced on a limited basis last week, then had the last of the stitches removed on Sunday before the team's loss to Seattle.

"Hopefully, Blaine goes out and plays Blaine's game," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "I know we can win with him. We've done it before. We just want to continue doing that and get out of that slump we're in.

"Elite quarterbacks are in a consistent environment. We haven't had that here. We have to get consistency here, and with that, I think you'll start to see some of these guys blossom a little bit more."

Bradley on Monday talked extensively about wanting Gabbert to play with more freedom, saying Gabbert practiced particularly well Friday when running the Jaguars' scout team.

"It was really just going out and having fun, playing ball," Gabbert said. "It was a fun experience. We were going against our defense. We were just trying to make plays, like we were in the back yard again. If we can emulate that within our offense on the regular season games, we'll be extremely successful.

"There's a fine line between sticking to your rules, executing the ball, then having a little backyard fun. At the same time, sometimes you need that for an explosive play to happen."

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch agreed, and said he has encouraged Gabbert to enjoy his situation, telling Gabbert to "just go have fun, just enjoy it, enjoy the process."

"For Blaine right now, there's no reason not to enjoy being a 23-year-old starting quarterback in the National Football League," Fisch said. "How much cooler does that get? That's what I'm encouraging him to be. How awesome is that?

"How awesome is it that a lot of your peers are graduating college and you have a chance to go out there and play in front of hopefully 65,000 screaming people here. How great is it? It's the coolest thing in the world. I told him, 'Don't just do it on the practice field. Do it on the game field.'''

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