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Thursday: "Pride's on the line"

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith (50) and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) reacts after a play during a game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 16th, 2018 in Jacksonville, Fla. Jaguars defeated the Patriots 31-20. (Logan Bowles via AP)

JACKSONVILLE – Telvin Smith's motivation is clear.

He's focused, too – and the same is true of cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Both Jaguars defensive players spoke to the media Thursday, with both making clear their focus remains not on the coming offseason, or even necessarily playing a "spoiler role" in Sunday's regular-season finale. No, the focus is simpler.

And so is the motivation.

"It's easy; that's the thing – you're always playing for something on the line," Smith said as the Jaguars (5-10) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (10-5) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

For the Jaguars, motivation is a tricky topic this week. They have been eliminated from the postseason since early December, and the preseason Super Bowl aspirations have long since passed.

The Texans, meanwhile, must win to clinch the AFC South. They also remain in contention for a first-round playoff bye. While they have clinched a playoff spot, they could enter the playoffs as the sixth and final seed if they lose.

That's a lot at stake in one game, and Jaguars players on Wednesday spoke of a spoiler role.

"It's always good to play the Grinch and ruin someone else's Christmas," free safety Tashaun Gipson said, with defensive end Calais Campbell saying he didn't want another team to win a division on his watch.

Smith, while motivated to win, wasn't as passionate about the "spoiler" thing – particularly against division opponents.

"I don't at all; I don't at all," Smith said when asked if he enjoyed the role. "You understand me? At the end of the day, I want them to have success. They worked for it. The wins have shown it. At the end of the day, they make the [division] look good.

"Everybody's always talking about how bad the South is. If they do good, it will bring good on us. Then when we turn our table …. You know what I mean? I think about the long-term, not just the right now saying, 'I want to beat you.'''

Both Ramsey and Smith also talked Thursday about this being the last game together for many of current Jaguars players, including some key players on a defense that has ranked in the top 10 for the last three seasons.

"I just go into it trying to do my job and try to help this team win a game," Ramsey said, adding of potential offseason roster moves, "Let me say this as carefully as I can say this: I am not worried about what the front office has to worry about. All I can worry about is what I have to do on Sunday, and what I have to do going forward."

The Jaguars released veteran safety Barry Church this month, and they are expected to face offseason decisions regarding other veteran players with high salary-cap figures. That group not only includes Smith, but key players and former Pro Bowl selections such as defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus, safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback A.J. Bouye.

"Obviously, I've thought about it," Smith said. "But that's for the front office, their job. I'm a player, man. I'm going to make sure we're ready to go and play. They've got to make sure we have the players to go out and play.

"It's tough for me to speak on it – going through it, the emotions. I don't want to say the wrong thing right now, living in the moment. I would just say, 'See what this group of guys can do. You see in the right situation what this group of guys can do,' but obviously we understand this business.

"When money gets involved, a lot of stuff changes. We'll see what happens."

And for now, the focus is on Sunday – and motivation is easy and clear.

"Your pride's on the line," Smith said. "My number and my name is on the line. My people watching this, you know what I mean? It's not like it's for nothing. You have to go out and you have to perform."

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