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Tuesday is the big day


It's the biggest event of the spring. The Masters? The prom? Graduation? No, that's minor stuff.

On Tuesday, May 8, the Jaguars will celebrate the kickoff of their spring practice season with the triumphant return of Byron Leftwich.

Byron who? You know, the team's starting quarterback. The guy who lost his starting job midway through last season, cleared out his locker and left town at the end of the season expecting to be traded but was reinstated on Feb. 22 as the team's starting quarterback.

Oh, yeah, that Byron Leftwich.

It's understandable that you might have forgotten about him, since he decided to spend his offseason in south Florida working with a personal trainer. While in south Florida, Leftwich went into a kind of re-entry blackout period. No one saw him or heard from him.

Well, folks, all of that changes on Tuesday, when it's expected Leftwich will lead the Jaguars onto the practice field for a workout that will unite the Jaguars quarterback with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, new quarterbacks coach Mike Shula and new wide receivers coaches Todd Monken and Robert Prince.

Yes, sir, much about the Jaguars offense is new. Leftwich has a new slot receiver, Dennis Northcutt, and a new front-side pass-protector, tackle Tony Pashos. It's also rumored that Leftwich has a new body. Rumors have it that Leftwich, who sneaked into and out of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for a workout on Wednesday, has a body fit for a fashion runway.

We'll see on Tuesday, because Leftwich is going to be marched up in front of the media and the questions will flow like Gatorade: What was your reaction to having been reinstated as the team's starting quarterback? What's your weight? How good of shape are you in? Should the Jaguars have drafted Brady Quinn?

Don't expect an answer to the last question, but the first three are fair game.

Yeah, the media is gonna be all over Leftwich on Tuesday. It'll be a media event. The rest of OTA's, however, will address less dramatic issues that will lead the Jaguars right into one of the most important training camps in the team's history.

• The competition at wide receiver won't officially begin until mini-camp, but next week's three OTA practices are being dubbed "Passing Camp," and that's a meaningful title for a team that was 24th in the league in passing last season.

• What kind of offense will Koetter install? That may be the most major issue of OTA's. Koetter comes to the Jaguars from the college ranks and no one's quite sure what kind of stamp he's going to put on the Jaguars offense.

• How far along in their recoveries are the injured players from last season? Leftwich, Greg Jones, Mike Peterson, Brent Hawkins, Pat Thomas and Dan Connolly missed all or most of last season. The focus will be sharpest on Leftwich, Jones and Peterson. Meanwhile, Donovin Darius, Reggie Hayward, Marcus Stroud, George Wrighster and Dee Webb will remain sidelined.

• With Hayward still recovering from his Achilles surgery and Bobby McCray threatening to hold out, what will the Jaguars do at defensive end?

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio isn't buying into the drama theme.

"When the drama begins is in Sept. when we open up. I think it's important to keep a healthy perspective. The offseason is a time for conditioning and attention to fundamentals and attention to details; always a tweaking of the system and a clean up in all areas. There's not drama until September," Del Rio said.

"I know where they are," he said of those players recovering from injuries. "We know we're getting these guys back. I'm watching them run now. On the injury front, it's all good. Some have been cleared and the others we anticipate will be cleared heading into training camp."

The Jaguars believe they have a playoff-caliber roster and the goal is a return to the playoffs. The Jaguars were on course for a second consecutive playoff appearance last season until three consecutive losses at the end of the season killed that bid.

"We are a good football team. We've won 20 games the last two years. We're trying to be elite," Del Rio said. "The reason we've been a good team is we have a bunch of guys who pay attention to fundamentals and you build those fundamentals in the offseason. I don't look at it the same way as others do. We're going to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. This is the time of year we spend time and pay attention to the details that'll carry us through the season. The big hype is going to be the quarterback position and the wide receiver position. I'm talking about hype across the board. The players have already heard that from me. The coaches have already heard that from me."

The spring practice season will break into full blossom on Saturday, May 12, when the Jaguars rookies report for the three-day mandatory mini-camp. The full roster will be on the field and from that point on the rookies may join the team for the 11 OTA practices that remain.

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