JACKSONVILLE – His confidence was as evident as his smile was wide.
“I’m doing very well,” Marqise Lee said.
That was Lee on Day 8 of Jaguars 2019 organized team activities Tuesday. He was discussing his chances to play – and play at a high level – in 2019 less than a year removed from a serious knee injury.
Lee, a sixth-year veteran wide receiver, sustained a 2018 preseason injury that included a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He missed the entire ‘18 regular season and is currently working on the side in offseason on-field work but said Tuesday – as he has said throughout the offseason – he expects to be 100 percent by Week 1 in September.
“I’m on schedule; a little bit ahead,” Lee said shortly after Day 8 OTA practices at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
“I’m taking my time. I’ve got no worries.”
Lee, a veteran on a young receiving corps, is one of the Jaguars’ most important offseason stories. The Jaguars need his toughness and playmaking at a largely unproven position, but his ’18 injury was significant enough it’s fair to wonder when he will return to pre-injury level. He said Tuesday trainers and doctors haven’t given him a timeframe for his return.
Wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell on Tuesday said while it could be a couple of weeks into training camp before Lee returns to practice, getting the player he calls the wide receiver room’s “alpha dog” back is critical.
“I know a lot about Marqise,” McCardell said. “In the rehab process, he has shown that he loves to play the game and he’s going to be back. He wants to be back, and he wants to lead. He’s put his mind into coming back and being better than ever. If he continues to think that way he will be back.”
Lee caught 56 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns in his last healthy season, 2017. The Jaguars re-signed him the following offseason not only for his receiving, but for his leadership and contributions in the run game as perhaps the team’s best blocking receiver.
“I’m looking forward to him being back because in my room he’s a tone setter – in the run game,” McCardell said. “You have to have a guy like that.”
Asked if Lee could be 100 percent Week 1, McCardell replied, “Who knows?”
“Medicine brings miracles,” McCardell said. “I’m just going to wait and see.”
Lee – who also said Tuesday’s he’s eyeing a return “sometime in training camp” – is waiting and seeing, too, and he said he’s leaving his timeframe up to trainers and doctors.
“I just know where I want to be at this point,” he said. “I feel like the things I’m doing right now most people didn’t think I would be able to do at this point. I’m actually doing well….
“I know I’ll be back.”
Lee was asked about the possibility of being ready Week 1 but needing a few weeks to play his way into top condition.
“That’s not my goal,” he said. “My goal is to be back during Week 1.”
One hundred percent?
“As much as I can out there, out there producing,” he said.
Lee said while he has spoken to other players who have returned from serious knee injuries, getting a gauge about returning from his specific injury is tricky. Lee against the Atlanta Falcons last preseason not only tore his ACL, he also damaged other ligaments.
“A lot of people I’ve been talking to just specifically deal with ACL; I’ve had a little bit more than that,” Lee said. “My timeframe is a little bit different from them, but I do get the ins and outs as far as feeling comfortable and how long it’s going to take to feel comfortable during the process.”
“I’m still taking my time. I’m feeling great – running great, sprinting great. I ain’t got no issues.”
Lee, who dealt with multiple soft-tissue injuries in his first few NFL seasons, was asked what he had learned rehabilitating this more serious injury. He smiled.
“That it’s a process,” he said. “Mental – that’s the main thing. You have to stand into it. I’ve tried to go to meetings and make sure I’ve stayed into the install (offensive game plan installation), knowing I can’t be out there with the team. I’m just out there helping.
“Y’all know me. My first couple of years [in the NFL] were kind of stressful due to the fact that I’d never had a significant injury that kept me out. Even though this one kept me out the full year, I’ve still got no worries. I know I’ll be back, stronger than ever, ready to go.”