He's fought his way back. Chad Owens is back in the driver's seat to make the roster. "It's in my hands," he said.
He hopes it's in his hands.
Owens is running a solid second team at wide receiver and number one at punt-returner, as the Jaguars head into their preseason opener this Saturday in Miami. Just a preseason game? No way. For Owens, it's much more.
He knows he's going to be given ample opportunity on Saturday to prove he's recovered from the nightmare that occurred in Indianapolis in week two of last season. It was a day so painful that he asks not to talk about it.
"I'm past that. I've totally erased that part of my career," Owens said following the Jaguars' Tuesday morning special teams practice. "I feel I'm back to where I was and I'm totally confident."
He struggled to catch punts. Jittery nerves got the best of him. The harder he tried, the worse it got. Before halftime, he was replaced as the Jaguars' punt-returner by fellow rookie Alvin Pearman.
"I was real anxious. I'm trying to be a pro. Coach talks about being a pro," Owens said.
Coach Jack Del Rio buoyed Owens' spirits at the start of the 2006 spring season, when Del Rio told Owens he fit prominently into the team's plans at wide receiver. It helped Owens' confidence at a time when the Jaguars made running back/return man Maurice Jones-Drew the team's second-round pick.
"That sparked me that much more," Owens said of his conversation with Del Rio. "I really do love this team. It's a great team and I love being around the fellows."
Now it all comes down to performance. Owens is a great practice player. There has never been any reason to doubt his skills and what he can do on a practice field. Now he has to prove he can do it in the games.
"I've caught punts every day. I think it showed in (the spring) and I think it shows in training camp. You have to take what you do in practice into the game," Owens said.
Oh, yeah, it's showing in training camp. Owens has caught punts with effortless ease. Meanwhile, Jones-Drew has struggled to catch the ball. Kickoff-return is more his game, which could leave the punt-return chores to Owens, provided he's able to take what he does in practice into the games.
"It (was) making bad decisions that led to drops; making a bad decision in fielding a ball that I shouldn't have and calling for a fair catch when I shouldn't have," Owens said. "I came back this offseason to get my confidence back.
"I can't wait for Saturday to come. I'm not going to try to do too much. Last year I tried to do too much," he added.
In the receiving game, the Jaguars have specific pass routes for Owens. He's going to get the ball in catch-and-run situations.
"I'm not going to be your guy to run a (deep) route. My thing is the intermediate routes; the crossing routes, the digs. I have an advantage because of my quickness. The coaches noticed that and I'm glad they noticed that. That can be my role," Owens said. "I don't want to get too excited about it. I want to be, like, you've been doing this too long to let this slip out of your hands."
Yeah, it's in his hands.