JACKSONVILLE – Today is the first day off for players in 2015 training camp, and the team will practice in full pads for the first time Wednesday morning. The first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is a week from Friday.
This week, we recap Dwayne Gratz and Peyton Thompson's visit to the Jacksonville Armada FC training grounds last week. The Armada are in their first year playing in the North American Soccer League.
Also, with the shoulder pads going on this past Sunday for the first time, and full pads going on Wednesday morning, the intensity of practices should ramp up. I asked new Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrick the nature behind camp skirmishes and why they happen.
Finally, Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny discusses how running backs Toby Gerhart and T.J. Yeldon look so far in training camp from a defensive point of view.
As always use #shadricksighting on Twitter to participate.
See you this week at practice. Here we go Jags…
Jaguars visit Jacksonville Armada FC
Prior to reporting for training camp, defensive backs Dwayne Gratz and Peyton Thompson visited practice for Jacksonville Armada FC, a team playing their first year in the North American Soccer League.
Gratz and Thompson are avid soccer fans, and after attending many Armada matches in the offseason both were invited to work out with the team at their training ground in Jacksonville.
Both participated in a game of rondo, sort of a two-man keep-away game, with the entire team ringing the two in the middle and trying to keep the ball away with one touch. A few minutes later, a short three-on-three game included the two, and finally they had an opportunity to shoot penalty kicks against the Armada goalkeepers.
"I figured it would be hard, once again you've got to respect the things that they do," Gratz said. "Football is not even close to this sport, they run 45 minutes straight. I played five minutes and I was tired, but that's what I expected."
Only Thompson had any soccer experience, but it came around the age of eight years old.
"You watch it on TV and they just never stop running," Thompson said. "You sit back and you watch, and it's a big field, they don't stop running. I don't know how they do it. There's no way as a football player you can lift weights and do all the things you are supposed to do and then come out here and run non- stop. It's a completely different element to the game."
As for the penalty kicks, Thompson scored a clear goal in four chances while Gratz's closest shot hit the crossbar and deflected off the keeper before nearly crossing the goal line. No replay was available.
"They gave me some advice to keep it to the corners, and I tried to give them a little look off and kick the other way," Thompson said. "I was one-for-four, I'll take that."
"I definitely know it's hard to make those types of kicks in that type of atmosphere," Gratz said. "I had about 20 people around me, but it felt like I was actually in the World Cup kicking for the U.S. If I would have been there, I probably would have helped us lose."
The Armada goalkeeper had a similar view.
"One of them said that they played before, and it's obvious that he didn't," Armada goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo said, jokingly.
"(They are) incredible athletes, you could tell when playing the three-versus-three game, that they were cutting so quickly, it was unbelievable. They're really good at their skill, and everyone tries to master their craft.
"We're also defending the same city, Jacksonville, so it's great that we are united. It's really good to get to know each other and understand where everybody comes from."
Jared Odrick on camp skirmishes, one-on-one drills
The Jaguars practiced in shoulder pads Sunday and Monday, and will practice in full pads for the first time Wednesday. With the added padding comes additional contact. With the additional contact, sometimes comes an extra shove or two.
Sometimes it leads to even more, and becomes a skirmish and sometimes a full-on fight between players.
"I've been a part of practices where whole practices were stopped when brawls have happened," Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrick said Sunday afternoon.
Odrick spent the first five years of his career with the Miami Dolphins.
With roster spots and careers on the line, intensity will only increase over the next few weeks of training camp and the preseason, and sometimes spirit and intensity can turn into frustration from the weeks of contact.
"There have been times in camp, not in camp, in pads, out of pads where things happen," Odrick said. "You can't ask the top one percent of testosterone-filled American men to step on a field and fight each other and always stop between the whistles.
"You try to be a professional as much as possible, but sometimes a part of being a professional is going past the whistle."
Most fights normally last only a few seconds until teammates come in and separate players, but those few seconds can wear on all players involved.
"If you're involved in it, you just want it to be over so you don't waste any energy, because more than likely they're not going to take you out, and then you're going to be wasted for the next play."
For the offensive and defensive linemen, the one-on-one periods are where some of the most contact can come into play. In a man-on-man situation, with a ring of players watching and cheering, things can often turn into more.
That said, Odrick said he likes one-on-ones when it ends with a positive outcome.
"When I'm winning; I think everyone likes one-on-ones when they win. No matter what the offensive line set is, or what the defensive line call is, it's skill versus skill and strength versus strength, and it's a test for both sides of the ball.
"When you practice one-on-one matchups, it can transfer over into games very well."
Posluszny on running backs
The running back battle is already raging between Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Bernard Pierce, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant.
What about a perspective from someone who lines up against them every day?
Linebacker Paul Posluszny had a veteran's day off Sunday, but after practice talked about the defensive view of a couple of Jaguars running backs.
First, Posluszny said that rookie running back T.J. Yeldon has the look of a contributor early in camp.
"You can see that he has great short-area quickness, where he's able to get in and out of holes, he's able to see a lane develop and he showed some great speed (Saturday)," Posluszny said. "It looks like he's an all-around back and it's good to see because there's a lot of competition in our running back room right now."
Toby Gerhart is happy about the new look for the Jaguars offense, and Posluszny said the new look could suit the sixth-year running back well.
"Toby runs the ball extremely hard," Posluszny said. "He's got great speed, he's very athletic, and he runs the ball hard between the tackles. This offense looks like it's going to be really good for him, because with a big, physical offensive line we want to run the ball. To have a back like Toby who's able to do that, that's a big advantage for us."