Mike Thomas won't say he doesn't hear it.
You don't have to whisper to Thomas that there are fans, media and other observers who believe that he and his teammates in the Jaguars' wide receiver corps aren't enough, and that the team must absolutely, positively sign a No. 1 wide receiver.
But Thomas said while he hears it, this much is also true:
Hearing it doesn't mean he believes it and he said people saying it doesn't make it right.
Still, while Thomas said it serves as a motivating factor, he said at the same time he's been dealing with people doubting him long enough to know the importance of such issues.
"It's definitely motivation," Thomas said recently at Jaguars Training Camp 2011, which will continue Thursday with a pair of practices.
"But at the same time, people are going to be just that and the media is going to be just that. Guys who get paid to make analysis, they're going to do that. It doesn't bother me. I take it all as motivation. I come out here and approach my work.
"I have fun with it. I don't let the outside stuff get to me."
Thomas, a third-year veteran from Arizona, said he has dealt with people questioning him as long as he has been playing football. In that respect, he said he's not surprised people look at the Jaguars' receiving corps and wonder why the team isn't adding a big-name free agent.
Thomas led the Jaguars with 66 receptions for 820 yards and four touchdowns last season, and with the off-season release of wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, he and fifth-year veteran Jason Hill – signed off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers last season – are expected to enter the season as starters, with rookie Cecil Shorts likely playing a key role.
That's a trio that combined for just 77 NFL receptions last season – Thomas, 66; Hill, 11; and Shorts, 0 – but Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said not only can the receivers on the roster develop, but the Jaguars' passing offense is about more than receivers. Smith said the presence of tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller, as well as solid receiving backs, gives the passing offense depth, a point with which Thomas said he agrees.
"You take into consideration those guys, it's pick your poison," Thomas said. "We have a lot of versatility when you talk in terms of tight ends, receivers and running backs. That's the kind of team we are. We don't throw the ball every time. We're more of a run team, but who we have fits what we do."
Thomas said Smith's confidence – and that of the coaching staff – is appreciated by the group.
"It's good to know the guys who make decisions – the Genes, the Coach (Jack) Del Rios, the Coach (Offensive Coordinator Dirk) Koetters – they have faith in you," Thomas said. "That makes everything a lot better as opposed to knowing people aren't on your side. I believe in myself. I know I can play this game. I've done it.
"I've played it the last two years and been successful with it. I just have to keep improving, and that's what I plan on doing."
While the Jaguars don't enter the season with a clear cut No. 1 receiver, there is optimism that Thomas or Hill can play that role. Hill said his approach is simple.
"I can't speak for the coaches, but my own personal mentality, I feel like I'm a No. 1 guy," Hill said. "I'm going to approach it that way everyday regardless of No. 1, 2, 3 – whatever it is I know I'm going to be out on the field on Sunday. That's how I approach it.
"I'm confident in what I do. I know I have a lot of room to grow and that's what I want to do."
Thomas said if getting done means emerging as the No. 1 receiver – and being recognized as such publicly – that's fine. He also said he won't spend time worrying if it doesn't happen.
"You know how I am – No. 1 or No. 2 doesn't mean a thing to me," Thomas said. "I'm a guy who wants to come out and get better. If they want to put that responsibility on me, I'll receive it. I'll take anything they put on me and I run with it. I love coming out here and competing, but the No. 1 or 2 spot, it doesn't really matter to me.
"I know I'm going to be a guy who's going to be on the field, however you want to slice that up. That's pretty much where I can. I'm going to come out and attack my work."
And while he won't say he doesn't hear the doubters, he also said they don't distract him, and in fact, he said it's quite the opposite.
"That's where that adrenaline rush comes from, going out and proving people wrong," he said, "but I don't let it get to me. It doesn't get to me at all."