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Training Camp 2020: "Being here is a blessing…"

LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (18) walks back to the sideline during the Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal college football playoff game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (18) walks back to the sideline during the Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal college football playoff game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

JACKSONVILLE – K'Lavon Chaisson put first things first.

Chaisson, a rookie defensive end/linebacker, along with fellow rookie CJ Henderson joined media Friday on a video conference – the first player availabilities of Jaguars 2020 Training Camp.

The rookies so far in '20 camp have participated in walkthroughs and conditioning, and they're waiting for veterans to clear COVID-19 testing, so Friday's availability focused more on what the two first-round selections will do than what they have done. Still, Chaisson made this much clear:

"Being here is a blessing."

Rookies reported for COVID-19 testing July 21 and have been on the field for conditioning and walkthroughs the past five days. Henderson, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, said much of the past week has been about learning – not only assignments and defensive schemes, but the parameters and protocols of social distancing in an NFL training camp.

"It's been crazy," Henderson, a cornerback from the University of Florida, said. "We're learning how to adapt and live in these strange ways. It's different for everyone. We're trying to find a way. It's new for all the guys here."

Chaisson, selected No. 20 overall, noted that the last time he had been on a football field before the past few days was January 13 – when he played for 2019 National Champion Louisiana State University in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

"It's been a long time," he said. "I'm excited to do everything that we have going on."

What's going on currently is a lot of social distancing and virtual learning. That will continue in the coming weeks during what NFL teams are calling a "ramp-up" period, with non-padded practices expected to begin August 10 and contact practices expected to begin August 17. All teams must trim rosters to 80 players by August 16, with the Jaguars currently allowed to carry 90 players.

The NFL has announced that there will be no preseason games, with the Jaguars scheduled to open the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field September 13.

"My main thing now is just being in shape and taking care of my body for the extended training camp that we're having – and the long season," Chaisson said. "I've kind of been preparing for that back at LSU with the 15-game season we had [last season]. But this is a 16-game season and hopefully we have plenty more after that."

Henderson and Chaisson both figure to play major roles as rookies, with Henderson – considered one of the draft's top two corners – possibly competing to start opposite third-year veteran Tre Herndon. Henderson began his college career similarly, starting six games as a true freshman – and starting 27 of 33 career games before foregoing his senior season to enter the 20 'draft.

"That will help me a lot, the competition I played against in the SEC (Southeastern Conference)," Henderson said. "That will help tremendously with my confidence. I'm ready to go out and help the team anyway I can."

Henderson said he also expects his transition to be helped by having played in a Florida scheme similar to that run by the Jaguars.

"We have pretty much the same scheme," he said. "It's just a little bit faster, and probably more plays. But I think they have the same aggressive mindset and they like to play the same defense, so it's not too difficult for me to adapt to."

Chaisson could play a role at outside linebacker this season as well as pass-rushing defensive end, with the Jaguars' defense this season emphasizing versatility and depth across the front. He said Friday he expects to benefit from playing with the Jaguars' pass-rushing tandem of Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue.

Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, emerged as one of the NFL's top young edge defenders last season by making the Pro Bowl following a 10.5-sack season. Ngakoue, who has yet to sign the franchise tag the team placed on him this offseason and who therefore is not in camp, has 37.5 sacks in four seasons – including eight last season.

"It's extremely helpful," Chaisson said. "Josh had an amazing year last year, being a Pro Bowler, and we have Yannick as well. Those two guys attract so much attention that there's not really a side that you can double team or slide to. Having a great defensive line makes a great defensive unit. It makes everybody's job a lot easier.

"If a quarterback can't get the ball off, that makes it even better. Playing next to those guys is a blessing. Learning from those two … it only gets better from there and will help this team a lot."

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