Jonathan Quinn knows he's only a limp away from another chance to show his wares to NFL teams who might be shopping for a quarterback this winter.
Starting quarterback Mark Brunell continues to struggle with a right quadriceps injury that is obviously more severe than a bruise. Since initially suffering the injury in Baltimore on Oct. 28, Brunell's weekly regimen has included more treatment time than practice time, but Brunell's injury has improved enough through the week for him to have been back under center in four of the last five games.
Brunell is back in the routine this week, having missed practice yesterday, though his coach, Tom Coughlin, embraced expectations his quarterback would be in the lineup Sunday in Cincinnati. Coughlin did acknowledge, however, that Brunell's injury would normally put a player out of action for 3-4 weeks.
"We need Mark Brunell to be our quarterback. That's what he's here for and he knows that. Plus, he's a leader," Coughlin said.
That all sounds very noble but it only causes opposing defenses to smell blood. Opponents look at the Jaguars and see a hobbled quarterback behind a suspect offensive line that has provided little in the way of a running game, and opposing defensive coordinators decide the situation calls for lots of blitzing.
Enter Quinn, as he did in Pittsburgh on Nov. 18, when Brunell's injury worsened through the week and forced him to the bench.
Quinn responded by passing for 225 yards and scrambling for another 39, but he failed to lead the Jaguars to any points, and he was the subject of fan scorn for having fumbled three times.
"Fans have a right to their opinion. If you fumble, the blame is going to be put on you," Quinn said, deciding not to lash back at the fans.
If Brunell is in the lineup Sunday in Cincinnati, he'll be facing a blitz-crazy bunch who worsened Brunell's leg injury in Jacksonville on Nov. 11 when Brunell was caught in an awkward position as he was sacked. With five games remaining, it would seem very likely Quinn will see more action before this season is complete, and that will either help or hurt his cause in free agency following the season.
"They can see you perform in live action," Quinn said of the value of getting more playing time. "It's different than the preseason."
He is in the final year of his contract with the Jaguars. It's not likely the Jaguars will have salary cap room to re-sign Quinn, but he's not discounting the possibility. In fact, he said he'd like to re-sign with the Jaguars.
"I think there's always a chance. I like it here. This is the team that drafted me," Quinn said.
His professional football future may be decided in what remains of this disappointing season.