The mood was good Monday, and the news wasn't all bad, either.
The Jaguars, fresh from a four-day "bye" weekend off, returned to practice Monday, and while Head Coach Mike Mularkey said the benefits of an extended rest were evident, there also was news at EverBank Field.
In this case, the news was defense-related.
Daryl Smith, one of the Jaguars' most-tenured defensive players and their best outside linebacker, practiced for the first time in six weeks on Monday, the same day the team signed veteran free-agent safety Chris Harris.
"I'm itching – I am," Smith said shortly after a two-hour practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
Smith worked during part of team drills Monday, and Mularkey said the plan is to have Smith practice a bit more each day Wednesday and Thursday. A decision on his status for Sunday is expected later in the week.
Mularkey said he is "optimistic" Smith will play Sunday.
"It was good to see him out there today," Mularkey said. "We're being very smart with the way we're handling it and a lot of it is gaining confidence, too, for him. The more he gets the better it's going to get. . . .I'm hoping he can play. I think everybody is."
Smith, an eight-year veteran, set a franchise record for tackles for loss last season, and is the leading tackler in franchise history. He has yet to play this season after sustaining a preseason groin injury, then sustaining a setback shortly before the regular-season opener.
"It was tough," Smith said. "The only thing I could do is not sit there and dwell on it. I just have to come in, be productive and help out my teammates any way I can. I'm just going to my job to the best of my ability. That's all I want to do. I've just been trying to get better."
Smith's return came the same day Mularkey announced that defensive end John Chick is expected to return to practice Wednesday.
Chick, a second-year veteran from Utah State, has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list since the beginning of the season. He can begin practicing Wednesday, and at that point, the Jaguars have a three-week window in which they can move him to the active roster.
If he is not active by the end of that period, he can be placed on injured reserve or waived.
Chick, the Canadian Football League's Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2009, had 2.5 sacks for the Jaguars last season before sustaining a torn patellar tendon in early December that ended his season.
"He's doing all of the (defensive line coach) Joe Cullen individual work on his own, so he looked good doing that," Mularkey said. "He just hasn't had the pads on or had to go up against linemen that are going to torque him one way or another, so those are the things he's just got to ease into."
Harris' signing came in the wake of an injury to safety Dwight Lowery, who is expected to be out at least two weeks with an ankle injury. While second-year veteran Chris Prosinksi has been the top backup at the position, Mularkey said there's a chance Harris could start Sunday.
"I'm going to give him a couple of days here, and just to get his feet wet here today," Mularkey said. "We just signed him this morning but he's got a chance. He's got a number of starts. He's a smart player to come right in here and can pick up what we're trying to get done with our communication.
"He's got to be able to make some calls back there to get us in the right places, and I like having that guy that has had to do that in games and has done it a number of times."
Harris (6-feet-0, 211 pounds), a sixth-round draft selection by Chicago in 2005, has started 88 games in a seven-year career with Chicago, Carolina and Detroit. He has 421 tackles with 16 interceptions, 37 passes defensed, 13 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries.
Harris, who has started at least seven games in his first seven seasons in the NFL, said he believes he would be ready if needed Sunday.
"It all depends on the person," Harris said. "For myself, I definitely think so. This is my eighth year. I've played for four different defensive coordinators. Defense is defense. It's just different terminology. They all do the same thing. They just name it something different,
"The key is learning the terminology more so than learning the actual defense."
The Jaguars contacted Harris midway through last week, and he arrived in Jacksonville Sunday in time to work with the team Monday.
"I'm definitely excited to get back on the field and get back to playing football," Harris said. "This time off has really given me time to think, and given my body time to heal from last season. I'm definitely excited and ready to go.
"I feel like I'll be ready. There's no such thing as getting in football shape until you actually do football. I'll be there."