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Ready when needed


To Rashad Jennings, opportunity is never a bad thing.

So, while there's little feeling around the Jaguars that Jennings has anything to prove against the Buffalo Bills Saturday night, that doesn't mean the third-year, second-team running back looks at any game – even a preseason game – nonchalantly.

As Jennings sees it, playing time is playing time. And for a player who backs up one of the NFL's most durable backs, that's valuable stuff.

"Any time you get a chance to put in work, you put in work," Jennings said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-1 in the preseason) prepared to play the Bills (0-2) in the third game of the 2011 preseason at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday at 7 p.m.

"That's regardless. That will be the case for the rest of my career."

Jennings, a seventh-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, in two seasons has developed into a player in whom the Jaguars have confidence. He started three games last season, including the last two when starter Maurice Jones-Drew was out with an injury.

He finished the season with 459 yards and four touchdowns rushing, improving from 202 yards and one touchdown on 39 carries as a rookie, and his performance throughout last season helped convince the Jaguars he was a capable complement to one of the league's premier backs.

"He's a talented young man," Del Rio said. "He's good out of the backfield with the ball as a receiver. He's good as a blocker, he's good running the ball. He's a weapon for us. We're fortunate to have a real strong backup like that."

Del Rio said mainly the Jaguars want Jennings to finish the preseason strong, and that while preseason reps are valuable for Jennings, of more immediate concern in the final two preseason games may be a chance to get a look at some younger backs.

"We know what he can do, and there are some other backs who are getting a good look right now," Del Rio said.

Still, to Jennings no matter how the team feels, an opportunity is something he needs to maximize – even if it's just a preseason opportunity.

"Especially getting the reps, getting the conditioning, staying fine-tuned, keying in the details – that's something you can't get unless you're in the game," he said. "Any given time you get a chance to get reps it's a good thing. I don't care what year it is. I don't care if it's your seventh year.

"If you're getting more reps, you're getting more in-depth into the playbook, you're getting more in-depth into the system. You always have to be ready. You never know which play is going to be pivotal."

And while there has been off-season talk of Jennings getting more reps with the Jaguars possibly wanting to reduce wear-and-tear on Jones-Drew, Jennings said, "Whatever comes my way, I'm going to go about it the same way. Whatever role they need from me, that's the role I'll play."

Also around the Jaguars Thursday.

*Del Rio said one issue for the Jaguars as they hone the roster is numbers at certain positions such as linebacker. "There are some benchmarks you ideally fill on the roster, but in the end, you want to keep the best football players here," Del Rio said. "The combinations may not be what you might be able to predict. We're working through that." Del Rio said entering the season with four safeties is a possibility, while the team could keep anywhere from 5-to-7 linebackers and 8-to-11 defensive linemen. Keeping six wide receivers is a possibility, and Del Rio said the team has six running backs/fullbacks who could potentially make the roster. "That's what we do this time of year, try to keep the best 53 for us," Del Rio said.

*The Jaguars on Thursday released wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, safety Michael Hamlin, linebacker Slade Norris, punter Brett Bowden and kicker Sam Swank. With the release of Bowden, Del Rio confirmed that veteran Matt Turk is the punter entering the regular season. "Matt's our punter," he said.

*Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey will not travel to Buffalo because of a head injury sustained Wednesday in practice, Del Rio said. Mincey's is the fourth such injury for the Jaguars in the preseason. "I think there might be a larger number (of concussions) throughout the season based on the protocol being followed," Del Rio sad. "They're recognizing things that they're more concerned with at a much higher rate than I've ever seen before."

*Del Rio said the Jaguars have yet to decide whether to have two or three quarterbacks active on game days. Whereas the NFL previously allowed teams to designate a third quarterback, rules this season allow 46 players active on game day with no "third-quarterback" designation. "That will be something we have to work through," Del Rio said.

*Jaguars right tackle Eben Britton (back) returned to practice on a limited basis. He missed the first two preseason games and could miss the final two, but the hope is to get him back for the regular-season opener September 11. "He's progressing nicely," Del Rio said.

*In addition to Mincey and Britton, Del Rio said tight end Zach Miller (knee), defensive end Steven Wesley (knee) and cornerback David Jones (hamstring) will not make the trip to Buffalo. Deji Karim, who sustained a concussion against Atlanta Friday, will make the trip and Del Rio said he could play.

*Del Rio said he never officially sustained a concussion during his NFL career as a linebacker, but said the approach to the injuries has changed dramatically. "When I played, you entered camp with a headache and you didn't stop having a headache until the season ended," Del Rio said. "It was a different era. Now, if you have a little bit of a headache, it's an issue. It's different, for sure." Del Rio added, "Anything we can do to ensure the safety of the players, I'm for it."

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