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Smith and Del Rio ready to go


As of Monday evening, some details remained sketchy.

What Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio and General Manager Gene Smith said they did know is that beginning Tuesday morning, they can start doing football things – i.e., negotiating with and signing new players and having players around the building -- and that on Thursday, training camp will open.

The NFL Owners' 136-day lockout of players officially ended Monday afternoon, and if much about the coming days remained uncertain as Smith and Del Rio met with the media a few hours later, one thing was clear:

Football was back -- at last, and just in time.

And that meant it was time to get to work.

"We're obviously excited to be at the end of this long and tough off-season," Del Rio said late Monday afternoon at EverBank Field.

 "I know everybody out there was eager to get going with football. As coaches, we're eager to get our hands on the guys and start the process of building our football team for 2011."

Del Rio, entering his ninth season as the Jaguars' head coach, spoke at the press conference, as did Smith and Owner Wayne Weaver. Weaver discussed extensively the need to sell season tickets, while Smith and Del Rio discussed what is expected to be a whirlwind coming days and weeks.

Players may begin reporting to team facilities at 10 a.m. Tuesday for physicals and voluntary strength training, and teams also may begin trading players at that time, too. They also on Tuesday at 10 a.m. may begin negotiating and signing their own drafted rookies and undrafted rookies.

They also may begin negotiating with their own veteran free agents at that time, though veteran players can't be signed until 6 p.m. Friday.

The Jaguars are scheduled to open training camp with the first practices on Thursday.

The Jaguars currently have 60 players on the roster. They will sign rookie free agents, five draft selections and veteran free agents during the coming days and weeks until they reach a roster limit of 90.

"This is unique in many ways, but in player personnel – from our standpoint – you're usually going into training camp with your roster set," Smith said. "We really have a chance here to add some players to what we already have to make an even more competitive roster going into the 2011 season.

"All we have to do is work our plan. I feel very confident starting tomorrow we'll do so."

The Jaguars are an estimated $35 million under the salary cap for 2011, and Smith on Monday reiterated what he has said often throughout the off-season – that the team will be aggressive in veteran free agency. It is expected the Jaguars will focus on safety and linebacker in that area.

"I think it's a good advantage," Smith said. "To have a veteran come in, obviously they can learn quicker. They know the players and the league, so you have an opportunity to acquire some starters to plug into the defense and really have a chance to upgrade your roster."

Smith said the scouting staff is still in the process of learning all of the details of the CBA, including exactly how to work rookie contracts.

"There's a level of unknown at this point," Smith said. "I'd like to say we'll get them in as soon as we can, but again, there is a whole process. We just do not have a lot of details at this moment in time because we haven't gotten everything from the league yet."

Smith said a high priority is re-signing punter Adam Podlesh and reaching a long-term agreement with Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis, who the team designated its franchise player before the lockout.

"We're in a good position as a team with our own players," Smith said.

Smith also reiterated that the team has told outside linebacker Kirk Morrison – a starter last season -- to "keep us informed" as he tests free agency, while they will part ways with other free agents, including linebacker Justin Durant, safety Sean Consedine and wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker.

"Most of what we had to do was done prior to the lockout," Smith said. "I've been honest and up front with all of them, where they were at with our football team. I think they have a clear message where they stand."

Del Rio said he has yet to receive details about reported limitations on the number padded practices that will be permitted during training camp.

Del Rio said he anticipates most of the padded practices during camp to take place in the evenings.

"What I gather is that for sure we'll be able to work them one time a day in camp in pads," Del Rio said. "Until I actually get the print on paper, it's difficult to talk too much about the specifics of what we can and can't do in regards to training our players."

Since the beginning of the lockout in March, coaches have been unable to work with veteran players or rookies, meaning the coaching staff has yet to work with the 2011 draft class, including first-round quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection.

 "It was a different off-season," Del Rio said. "We tried to maximize the time we had, and we had more time than usual. We wanted to do some projects, do some due diligence and make sure that when our guys got back we had a plan to be able to help our football team compete at the highest level.

"We feel good about the work that we set out to do and that we were able to accomplish during the off-season."

With a shortened off-season and fewer padded practices under the CBA, Del Rio – a former Pro Bowl linebacker – said his first reaction was "to see if maybe I could unretire and get a few more years in."

He also said less contact in practice "might" hurt the level of blocking and tackling.

"I know we've seen less tackling throughout the league," Del Rio said. "I think you've seen that be an issue. It's been a little bit of an issue with us the last couple of years. We need to be a better-tackling football team and not having the time in camp in pads to be able to work on those things makes it a little tougher.

"Somehow or another we'll find a way and get our guys taught what they need to know and move on, but it is a concern. We're all in the same boat, in the same playing field, and we'll work hard to get it done."

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