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OTA 8: Bowanko savors health, opportunity


JACKSONVILLE – He won't know the outcome for a couple of months.

Luke Bowanko said he's not worried about that, because for now he's happy and grateful for something more basic: his health.

For Bowanko, that health means a chance to be working in Jaguars 2017 organized team activities – and after his 2016 experience, he knows that opportunity is far from guaranteed.

"I haven't had a chance to really produce for this team for a couple of years," Bowanko said Tuesday following the Jaguars' eighth 2017 OTA. "Just to be out there practicing, it's a good feeling to be out there rather than having my back on a training table."

Not that Bowanko is simply happy to be practicing.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself; I have high expectations," Bowanko said. "There's a standard I have for myself. There's a little bit where I have to step back and understand that it's a process and that confidence will come with reps, but I can't wait for it to happen. I have to make it happen."

Take a look at Tuesday's rainy practice.

Bowanko, a sixth-round selection by the Jaguars from the University of Virginia in the 2014 NFL Draft, is one of the trickier projections on the Jaguars' 2017 roster.

A fourth-year veteran, he has extensive experience as a starter. He also plays a position – interior line – where there figures to be significant competition during training camp.

"We are trying to find the best five," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said Friday.

The Jaguars toward that end are rotating several players – Bowanko, veteran Patrick Omameh, Tyler Shatley, Chris Reed and Brandon Linder – at various spots on the interior to find the best combination of two guards and a center.

Bowanko started 14 games at the latter position as a rookie in 2014, but he has played just eight games since. Six came as a reserve in 2015. Bowanko spent that season behind Stefen Wisniewski, who started at center after winning the job in a tight training-camp competition with Bowanko.

Bowanko last year missed OTAs with a hip injury that also kept him on the physically unable to perform list for the first 13 weeks of the season. It was a significant amount of time missed for a young player who had either been a starter or a key reserve for two NFL seasons.

"Different people take different paths; it is what it is," Bowanko said. "Hopefully, I can produce this year and reward the guys in the front office for taking me and make it worth their while."

Bowanko's extensive playing time in the regular-season finale against Indianapolis marked the first extensive time since his rookie season. Bowanko said that time was important "if for nothing more than to remind myself that I belong out there."

"You spend so much time on the bench, and in the training room, that it's hard to look at yourself in the mirror and be like, 'Yeah, I'm a pretty good player,''' Bowanko said. "You get out there and you compete on very little practice … it's refreshing, but it reminds you of how much work you have to do and how important these things [OTAs] are and how important training camp will be."

The time missed last offseason makes the current OTAs Bowanko's first extensive offseason work in nearly two years, meaning unlike last season he has a legitimate chance to compete and contend for a significant offensive-line role. That's a process Bowanko said begins now, with training camp the far more important time.

"It's coming," Bowanko said. "You have to take it with a grain of salt. You don't have pads on, so you can't necessarily evaluate it to how it's going to be when it matters, and it's coming day-by-day. It's hard to keep perspective when you haven't played a whole bunch and this is the first time I've been on the field healthy in a long time."

Bowanko said he doesn't know yet how training camp will play out, or how the interior of the Jaguars' line will look next season. "There's a lot of good players in the room," he said.

He said, too, those elements are out of his control. What he can control is his approach in the offseason and training camp. Unlike last offseason, he can do just that.

"I'm happy just to be out there, competing," Bowanko said. "If I can produce for this team, I'll be happy to do it. I have a vision of where I want to be. I'm not there yet. I have more chances to reach that this year than I did last, so it's going well.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to actually be practicing, have a jersey on and be out there with the guys."

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