JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone set the tone early Tuesday.
That was the Jaguars' head coach's priority Tuesday on Day 1 of 2018 Jaguars Organized Team Activities, a day that also featured news that two prominent players weren't in attendance for the first day of the voluntary sessions.
Those players: cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
But while the absence of the two 2018 All-Pro selections undoubtedly will be major topics for observers and some media, Marrone – entering his second OTAs as the Jaguars' head coach – addressed the pair's absence succinctly.
"A.J.'s not here and Jalen's not here," Marrone said Tuesday morning before the team's practice at the Dream Finders Home Flex Field at Daily's Place. "I've spoken to both of them. One of the things I'm big on is not to try to create messages through the media, me as the head coach doing that.
"I've been communicating with them and I'm sure when the time is right they'll explain their reasons."
OTAs, like nearly all of an NFL team's offseason program, are voluntary under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between NFL team owners and the NFL Players Association. The only mandatory activities are the three days of mandatory veteran minicamp June 12-14.
Marrone spent much of his 18-minute media availability discussing his approach to OTAs, the first on-field practice sessions for the Jaguars since their 2017 AFC South title season that ended with a loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
OTAs and minicamp – also known as Phase 3 of the NFL offseason – are unpadded, non-contact work, but unlike the first two phases of the offseason program teams can participate in seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills.
"We're still really not playing football," Marrone said. "We're still in pajamas."
Marrone spoke to the team before practice Tuesday, and outlined goals for the coming month. He said there were three:
*Conditioning. Marrone said this entailed not just physical conditioning, but mental conditioning such as studying the playbook and running plays. "Really, the conditioning of creating good habits – to the huddle, hustling to the football and things of that nature … and putting it on tape," he said.
*Communication. "Obviously, we know the calls on the field and things like that," Marrone said. "I think that's easy, but more importantly: communicating with the coaches, coaches communicating with the players and players communicating with myself to build trust and accountability."
*Chemistry. "You really can't put your finger on it sometimes," Marrone said. "You just kind of know when you have it. But I think a lot of it is the players getting to know each other and it goes back to that same thing – trust and accountability."
Marrone said new NFL rules preventing players leading with the helmet when making contact with opponents also were discussed in the meeting.
"We're excited," he said. "We're going to go out there and roll the ball out there and practice. We're looking forward to it."
Marrone as he has done throughout the offseason also on Tuesday emphasized with players the importance of not dwelling on last season.
"This is a new team," Marrone said. "I told the team, 'It's always good to learn from the past, but please do not dwell on the past.' I told them I think a lot of people in the media – not as much here, but people who come from the outside – are going to try to get our team to talk about last year.
"They're going to talk about how maybe failing at the end will motivate you. Those are the kinds of things I've been asked and I think maybe a lot of the players have. I don't want to fall into the trap of getting too far ahead of myself. That's really the poison that's out there for us.
"We've got to concentrate on, 'Look at the past lesson we've learned. Let's look at this lesson of the hard work we've put in on this time. Let's focus on that.'''