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Open locker room: "We have to figure out how to win"


JACKSONVILLE – The last two games matter.

That was clear listening to Blake Bortles Wednesday – and it was clear the games were on his mind amid many, many other things this week.

Bortles, the Jaguars' starting quarterback, covered a variety of topics on his past, present and future when he spoke to the media Wednesday. Chief among the topics were the last two games of the Jaguars' disappointing 2016 regular season.

Bortles will start those games, and he said he's happy and grateful for the opportunities.

He also said the Jaguars offense needs to play well during them.

"That would be a good sign, and something to go into the offseason with as somewhat positive," Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars (2-12) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (8-6) at EverBank Field Saturday at 1 p.m.

Bortles' meeting with the media Wednesday was his first since the Jaguars relieved former Head Coach Gus Bradley of his duties Sunday following the team's ninth consecutive loss. He said he learned of Bradley's dismissal while on a team bus at NRG Stadium in Houston.

He spoke to Bradley the following morning.

"I expressed my gratitude towards him," Bortles said of Bradley, his head coach since he entered the NFL as the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. "He was the guy who gave me an opportunity to play in this league. He believed in me and drafted me – as well as [General Manager] Dave [Caldwell] and [Owner] Shad [Khan] – but Gus was a big part of that.

"He's helped me mentally, physically, football, non-football – so any time that happens, everybody feels responsible. I know I certainly do. I was a big part of that happening [Bradley being dismissed]. When things don't go your way, somebody takes the fall. It's sad to see that happen.

"I wish I – and I wish we - could have done more save his job."

Bortles said he regretted that Jaguars players couldn't take advantage of what he described as a unique culture around the team under Bradley.

"We've talked about it," Bortles said. "We were given an opportunity to play for a guy who was unbelievable and brought in an unbelievable culture unlike anywhere else. It was awesome. We didn't do the things were needed to do in order to keep that. Now, we have to figure out what's next. …

"It's our fault. It's my fault. It's everybody's fault. We all played a part in this happening. Now, we have to live with the results and what happens next."

Bortles, who set franchise records with 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns passing last season, has thrown for 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He has had a passer rating below 40 in two of the last three games. He also has 20 total turnovers for the season, including three interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Bortles has been listed on the injury report with a shoulder injury since sustaining the injury in a loss at Detroit November 20, and Caldwell mentioned the injury when discussing Bortles Monday.

Bortles dismissed the issue Wednesday.

"It's late in the season," he said. "Everybody who plays has something going on nagging or hurting and bugging them. I'm no different. … I saw in a [Hall-of-Fame quarterback] Brett Favre thing: he talked about playing hurt. He mentioned that not only is it a thing to play hurt but you have to play well even when you're hurt – and if you're not, they'll find somebody else to play.

"That's always been in the back of my mind. I definitely want to play and want to be out there."

Caldwell on Monday expressed belief in Bortles' future, and interim head coach Doug Marrone said Bortles will remain the starter.

"It's the first time I've been a part of a coach firing, so for him to come in and say that, it means a lot," Bortles said.

Bortles also was asked Wednesday about this being a possible career crossroads.

"You can talk about a lot of different things," he said. "Anyone could say, 'This is why we are where we are.' We've had offensive coordinator change. We've had a head coach change. There are a lot of excuses, or a lot of crutches that are easy to use. The reason for everything that has happened is we haven't played well.

"I haven't played well. We haven't played well. That's why all this change has happened. We have to figure out how to play. We have to figure out how to win in order to create some kind of continuity and consistency in this organization."

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