Jerry Porter met the Jacksonville media on Monday morning with a smile and the enthusiasm of a college freshman.
"It's just like going back to college. It's my first time being a new guy in a long time," Porter said.
Smiles were few and far between in recent years for the seven-year NFL veteran. Playing for the Oakland Raiders had become somewhat of a prison sentence for a big-play, speed receiver in an offense that couldn't settle on a quarterback and was at the bottom of the league in passing yardage.
Porter figures all of that has changed for him, now that he's signed a rich free-agent contract to play for the Jaguars, who found a rising star quarterback last season and hope to be a Super Bowl contender this year.
"Seeing the way (David Garrard) protected the ball and the way they ran the ball and knowing they had to throw it a little better," Porter answered when asked what attracted him to the Jaguars. "It's great to be wanted," he added.
Porter is wanted by a team that has struggled to find a replacement for Jimmy Smith at the number one receiver position. Porter is being counted on to be that guy.
"It's the role I've been looking forward to," Porter said.
Porter is one of several Jaguars who were on hand Monday for the start of the team's offseason conditioning program. Fellow free-agent acquisitions Cleo Lemon and Drayton Florence were in attendance, as were several players attempting to make recoveries from 2007 injuries.
"This is me. I smile a lot. I'm happy to be here, too," Porter said. "It's good to be back to expecting to win instead of hoping to win. When you have to play this team, you better bring your hard hat because it's going to be a slugfest. I don't know anybody who wouldn't want to be on a team like that."
On the opening day of offseason conditioning, everybody had a smile on their face. Lemon talked about his decision to join the Jaguars and decline the chance to join teams where he might have an opportunity to compete for a starting job. Gerald Sensabaugh talked about having two new shoulders and Mike Walker said he's eager to test his surgically-repaired knee.
"I wanted to compete. Those opportunities were there but I felt good about the situation so I decided to come here," Lemon said about becoming Garrard's backup.
Lemon entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2002, when he signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Jaguars personnel boss James Harris was the Ravens' pro personnel director back then.
"He believed in me. He signed me. I talked to him all the time; knowing what he went through," Lemon said, referring to Harris' experience in attempting to become pro football's first-ever starting black quarterback.
Few knew what Sensabaugh had been going through. The Jaguars safety was playing with a torn labrum in one shoulder when he blew out the labrum in the other shoulder in week two of last season. Since then, Sensabaugh has undergone surgery on each labrum, six weeks apart.
"I'm fine now; bionic shoulders," he said jokingly. "I'm getting stronger; getting my weight back."
Sensabaugh is being counted on to compete for the starting strong safety position. Sammy Knight replaced Sensabaugh last year but Knight was allowed to escape in free agency.
"It would slide out and back in," Sensabaugh said of his shoulder. "It was just real painful and my arm would go numb for about 15 minutes."
Walker was the Jaguars' third-round pick last spring and he immediately flashed speed and talent that caused the Jaguars to believe he could become Jimmy Smith's replacement. Toward the end of training camp, however, the knee on which Walker had undergone surgical reconstruction in college grew weak. As a result, Walker spent last season on the injured reserve list and underwent another repair procedure at midseason.
"I'm back now. I feel like I've got a lot of making up to do. I missed football and I'm ready to go," Walker said.
Actually, he won't be completely ready to go until training camp. That's the target for his recovery. Walker won't participate in spring practices but plans to be able to participate in two-a-day practices in training camp.