The Jacksonville Jaguars began their 2003 training camp — the ninth in franchise history — today with a new head coach, new practice fields, a new outlook and 43 new players.
Head coach Jack Del Rio ran the team through two spirited practices in front of the biggest crowds ever recorded at the team's training camp. A total of 2,667 fans attended the two-hour-and-15 minute morning session, which was more than had ever watched a practice since the team started counting in 2000 other than an evening in-stadium practice that drew 2,761 on August 5, 2001. In the afternoon, 1,768 attended the hour-and-a-half session.
The team worked for the first time ever on its new practice fields northwest of ALLTEL Stadium, where Wolfson Park had stood for 40 years. The complex of three practice fields — two natural grass and one FieldTurf — includes five stands that accommodate 2,250 people, with hundreds of others watching from behind ropes surrounding the fields.
A total of 86 players reported, everybody except first-round draft choice Byron Leftwich, who has not signed a contract. The morning session was in shells, while the afternoon practice was in shorts.
"It was awesome to open up these fields and have the fans' support when we walked out for the first day of camp," said Del Rio. "So I want to say thanks to the fans that showed up."
Of the morning practice, Del Rio said, "I thought we kind of eased into it, and we really can't afford to do that. I know there were a lot of nerves, a lot of anxiousness, and that'll soon dissipate. I thought Mark (Brunell) looked pretty impressive. There were some holes I'd rather not see on defense, but Mark was very sharp, and that's a good thing."
Linebacker Bobby Brooks suffered a sprained left knee in the morning practice and will undergo an MRI this evening.
On Sunday, the Jaguars will work for the first time in full pads at 8:45 a.m., with a special teams practice scheduled for 3:00 p.m.