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Time to learn

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There's something Blaine Gabbert can't quite figure.

Not the Jaguars' playbook, though he said learning it is indeed a process. Nor is it how to read NFL defenses, which the rookie first-round quarterback said is very much a process, too. It's not even the change from a spread college offense to a pro-style NFL scheme, which he said isn't such a difficult process as many believe.

What Gabbert can't figure involves the player in front of him. Why are a lot of people down on David Garrard?

That, Gabbert just doesn't get.

"David's the starting quarterback," Gabbert said Tuesday between a pair of Jaguars training camp practices. "He's a heck of a football player. People say he's not . . . that's wrong. Some of the throws he makes and makes on a daily basis are extremely impressive.

"I'm in the best situation. I'm learning behind a great quarterback. I'll learn from (reserve quarterback) Luke (McCown) as well. I value that. "

That was Gabbert's emphasis throughout his meeting with the media at EverBank Field Tuesday – that despite the expected audible first-round-quarterback buzz, a buzz made louder by a few impressive practices in his first week,  he is still very much in the learning stages.

Yes, he will compete.

And yes, Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said, he has shown the good things expected from a player selected No. 10 overall in the NFL Draft.

"At some point, he's going to be a really good player," Del Rio said. "I think we can all see that."

But Gabbert and Del Rio each said the progress toward that point is very much still ongoing, something each said is part of the equation for Gabbert or any NFL rookie.

"It's a learning process for us," Gabbert said. "But we're going to make new mistakes the next time and move on."

A rookie quarterback's adjustment to the NFL is about more than the playbook, particularly in the case of Gabbert. Although he is now a reserve, it's expected and understood he will start, and it's just as expected that he will someday be the face of the franchise.

Fitting into a locker room in that situation can be difficult, but Gabbert said it's something about which it doesn't make any sense to put on an act.

 "You have to be yourself," Gabbert said. "You can't pretend to be somebody you're not. That's going to show right through in the locker room. People are going to know who the real person is. You can't be somebody fake. You have to prove yourself on the football field.

"I'm just going to learn the playbook, compete with those guys and have fun doing it."

Del Rio on Tuesday spoke extensively of the positive environment among the quarterbacks, saying that Garrard and veteran backup Luke McCown have done a good job helping Gabbert. He said Gabbert's attitude during the process has helped, too.

"Blaine has done his part by coming in and knowing he has a lot to learn and that they can be a great asset for him," Del Rio said.

Del Rio compared Gabbert's situation to that of Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew early in his career, when Pro Bowl running back Fred Taylor was the established starter.

"That helps the dynamic, when a young guy coming in who obviously has talent is respectful and knows he has a lot to learn and approaches it that way," Del Rio said. "Typically, if you approach it that way the veteran looks at it where he knows he has to be sharp and stay ahead, but he's more willing to share information.

"It's a healthy dynamic. It's one we're looking to have throughout our squad."

Del Rio said while Gabbert has looked smooth at times during camp, the reality is it's difficult for a rookie to "really show your abilities" early in camp, particularly with Gabbert not having been able to meet with coaches in the off-season.

"We're fortunate that we have two quarterbacks who we know can play in this league," Del Rio said. "He's not going to get forced into action, so from that standpoint I think we're approaching it from a healthy standpoint."

Gabbert said for now playing time and depth charts aren't his concern; learning the playbook is, and something he's doing on close to a round-the-clock basis.

"I'm not doing it right now," he said, smiling. "I try to get here before 7 a.m. every day and we don't leave here until 10:30, 10:45. A lot of that is in meetings when we're not at practice. We have breaks in the middle of the day to eat, but other than that we're in meetings, watching film, looking at the playbook."

What Gabbert said won't slow his development is moving from a spread offense at Missouri to the Jaguars' offense. That has been a focus of analysts, but Gabbert said it very definitely has been overanalyzed.

"The NFL is becoming more and more of a shotgun offense," Gabbert said. "We like to throw the football. That gives the quarterback a little bit of an advantage seeing coverage, but you take a drop from shotgun and you take a drop from under center. The only thing that changes is you get a snap from under center. I think that's easier. You don't have to focus on the shotgun snap. There's a lot of things that can go wrong there. Really, it hasn't been one bit of a problem."

Gabbert said he has been "doing drops since I started playing football."

"I knew it wasn't going to be that big of a difference," he said. "There are bits and pieces you have to adjust to your offense, different drops for different plays, but other than that it has been a pretty good transition."

While Gabbert has looked impressive at times early, Del Rio said the Jaguars remain in no rush to push Gabbert into the lineup.

"Is that a likely scenario?" Del Rio said. "It's not one we envision. It's not one we're looking for at all. We've said many times over David's our guy. We have a capable backup in Luke. And we're going to bring Blaine along."

Said Gabbert, "Everybody wants to play, but whatever is best for this football team, that's what the coaches are going to do. Like I said, you guys give Dave a hard time. He's a hell of quarterback. It's fun watching him play. The throws he makes, very few people in the world can make them.

"Having that chance to learn from him, watching his footwork and the way he plays the game, is very valuable to me."

Gabbert, Del Rio said, is a player with "great tools in terms of arms, size and speed," but rushing a talented quarterback into an overwhelming situation can create negatives that outweigh the positives gained from experience. Balancing that is critical in a quarterback's development, and for now – early in Gabbert's first training camp – there's no rush to do any unbalancing.

"He's got a great upside," Del Rio said. "He has a lot of work to do. He's doing some things now off natural ability that will only get better. He got in the first night (practice) and saw things, got rid of the ball and was fairly quick getting the ball out. The ball gets there on time an accurate. Those are good quality to have. . . .

"We want to make sure we establish a real foundation in terms of his development and understanding of what the mental answers are to the game. We know he can take off and run and we know he has the arm to put it in there. He's a bright guy and it should come quickly, but in my opinion that's the most important part of playing quarterback. Decision-making and accuracy are the things you want in a quarterback and right now, we're working on that decision-making part with him."

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