This has been a difficult summer for Cortez Hankton, who has battled a high-ankle sprain through training camp and the preseason. Somehow, however, Hankton has managed to survive.
Back home, in New Orleans, Hankton's parents were in the process of battling through "Hurricane Katrina." Hankton's parents are police officers who were assigned to the Louisiana Superdome to assist those who sought shelter against the storm. As of Monday morning, as Hankton spoke to reporters at Alltel Stadium, his parents were holed up at the Superdome, which had reportedly sustained roof damage.
"This is my job but family is a priority, too," said Hankton, who last spoke to his parents on Sunday night.
The Hankton family home is in west New Orleans, adjacent to one of the levees that holds back the Mississippi River. Hankton said he was concerned the family's home would not survive the storm.
Back in Jacksonville, Hankton was wondering if he'll survive another cutdown. He made it past this weekend's cuts but a minimum of seven more players have to go by four o'clock tomorrow. Then there's this weekend's final cuts. Will Hankton make it to the final 53?
"Right now, I'm comfortable with any role," he said jokingly.
He's one of the Jaguars' good-looking young receivers. The team has two years of grooming invested in Hankton and he's not practice-squad eligible.
"It's frustrating playing through the pain. The best thing I can do right now is get healthy," he said.
Some believe that if and when Hankton recovers from his ankle injury, he could push for playing time.
"I feel like I'm a playmaker and this offense is for playmakers. We have a (wide receiver) corps full of playmakers," he said.
Reggie Williams is one of those would-be playmakers. He was drafted for the purpose of being a playmaker. As the ninth pick of the 2004 draft, expectations remain high for Williams, who has yet to deliver the kind of numbers media and fans want to see.
"I don't care what everybody says. Whatever you all say, go ahead and say it," Williams told reporters during a media session on Monday. "It's just the preseason. These don't count. If we start bad on Sept. 11, then you can write that."
Then there's Jimmy Smith, who has been the Jaguars' playmaker since the team's second season. Smith is nearing the end of a great career, but he's not ready to talk about retirement.
"I'm 36 and I'm still running by people," he said.
What has Jaguars fans concerned is a rash of dropped passes by Smith this summer.
"Don't be (concerned)," Smith said. "Concentration, that's all."
They are three players who represent the extremes of the Jaguars wide receiver corps. Smith is the unit's star; he is its elder statesman. Williams is expected to be the heir apparent to Smith's role. Expectations for Williams are shared by rookie Matt Jones, this year's first-round draft pick. Hankton, the undrafted free agent, joins Ernest Wilford, a fourth-round pick in 2004, and Chad Owens, a sixth-round pick this year, as the unit's over-achievers.
"I think this is the most talent we've had in the existence of the team, at wide receiver," Smith said. "That's the way it was when I was at Dallas. There weren't enough balls to go around. The guys we have on our team could probably start for a lot of teams in the NFL."
The obvious question then is why has the Jaguars passing game struggled through training camp and the preseason?
"There's nothing wrong with it, we're just not where we want to be. There are drops. Who wants to be hitting on all cylinders right now?" Smith asked. "It's all the little things that are easy to correct. There are just little fine-tuning things that need to be done."
The Jaguars will attempt to do a little more fine-tuning this Thursday in Dallas, in the final game of the preseason. Then, it'll be on to Sept. 11 and the games that count.