JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars didn't practice Thursday.
Day Nine of 2016 Organized Team Activities instead became something different. And to hear players tell it, it became something pretty memorable and special.
Jaguars players on Thursday visited four area health-care facilities – Wolfson Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Brooks Rehabilitation and Nemours Children's Specialty Care – instead of holding an on-field practice on Day Nine of OTAs.
Head Coach Gus Bradley informed the players of the plan Thursday morning.
"It was really cool," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. "Guys came in this morning and worked out. We were fully expecting a normal day, to go into the team meeting and get ready for practice, then Gus told us we'd be doing this. This is an unbelievable way to spend a day off that Gus has given us to try to make a difference in the lives others.
"It's an unbelievable group of guys we have in our locker room. It's even more special to see them in these kinds of environments – how genuine it is, and how they interact with the people here."
The Jaguars in past offseasons have had OTA off days featuring paint ball or some other player-oriented, team-building exercise. Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said Bradley essentially told the team instead of making this year's day off about "us" it would be about "others."
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley surprised the players by cancelling the teams ninth OTAs practice and instead visited Wolfsons Children's Hospital.
"The majority of times when we take days off in the offseason we do something for us, as a team – whether it's building camaraderie or just all the guys getting together," Marks said. "But for us to be able to do something for others is real big."
Cornerback Aaron Colvin was among Jaguars defensive backs and quarterbacks also visiting Ronald McDonald House, where players helped make and serve breakfast for residents and played basketball with patients and guests.
"I didn't have too many opportunities to meet people in the NFL or NBA or anything like that," Colvin said. "To be able to give back is a blessing. You can tell by the looks on their faces it's a special moment for them.
"This is genuine. Just to be able to play basketball – something we all like to do – and guys are cooking … You can feel the love. It's good to give it back to them."
Tight ends, wide receivers and defensive linemen visited Wolfson Children's Hospital.
"Whenever we can give back to the community as a team, that's what you want to do," wide receiver Allen Robinson said. "We have a young team that's willing to give back. It's not too long ago we were young kids ourselves.
"Being able to come to the hospital, being able to talk to the kids and being able to hear some of their stories … they encourage us as well. We try to take something from them just as they take from us."