JACKSONVILLE – The timing is cool in one sense.
“You get to play again early,” Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler said.
That’s one way to look at the Jaguars’ game against the Tennessee Titans Thursday – as a chance to quickly maintain recently-found momentum. There’s another way to see it.
“It’s tough,” defensive end Calais Campbell said as the Jaguars (4-8) prepared to play the Titans (6-6) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, Thursday at 8:20 p.m. “Thursday Night Football is tough on our bodies – especially Week 14 Thursday Night Football.
“Each week is a little bit harder and harder to recover. Playing late in the season on Thursday night is tough, especially going on the road. But you have to do what you have to do – find a way to play football and win the game. We’re looking forward to the challenge, but it’s going to be tough.”
A glance at the injury report supports Campbell’s thoughts.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who played with a knee issue in a 6-0 victory over Indianapolis Sunday that snapped a seven-game losing streak, is one of several Jaguars players dealing with injuries this week. Six other Jaguars players were listed as limited or not practicing, including Campbell, starting right tackle Jermey Parnell and starting nose tackle Abry Jones.
“We’re kind of banged up,” Ramsey said. “Everybody’s got to get healthy in a short span.”
The physical challenge of a short week is one factor. Another is mental.
“It’s a quick week for a turnaround,” Kessler said.
Whereas coaches usually begin game-planning on Tuesdays with players beginning practice Wednesday after a Tuesday day off, coaches began game-planning this week Sunday evening. The Jaguars held a light practice Monday evening and will hold another Tuesday evening before traveling to Nashville Wednesday.
“Every week, especially now that you’re late in the season, is a mental battle,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “It’s a want-to; you just have to want to do that. You have to be mentally be ready to perform and get your body right.”
The main positive of a Thursday game from a players’ perspective is simple, as Smith sees it. It’s a prime-time stage, and that’s always good.
“You’d rather play under the lights,” Smith said. “I think anybody who plays this game or plays a sport of entertainment, I think they love the big moments.”
For the Jaguars, the game marks a chance to win for a second time in five days after going 63 days without a victory before beating the Colts. Jaguars players talked throughout the losing streak that a victory could change the team’s direction for the better.
“Football’s a momentum-based game,” Campbell said. “That one win feels good. You get that feeling again. It’s been seven weeks. The guys are hyped and you could see it carried over. But with this short week, you have to kind of put that behind quick, study your tape and prepare.”
The Jaguars have lost three consecutive games to the Titans, with their last series victory coming in Head Coach Doug Marrone’s first game as interim head coach – a 38-17 victory in Week 16 of the 2016 season.
The Titans beat the Jaguars twice last season, then beat the Jaguars again – 9-6 – in Week 3 this season at TIAA Bank Field.
“I think the whole game is going to be a dogfight,” Ramsey said, with second-year running back Leonard Fournette adding: “It’s important, most definitely. In my years, we’ve never beaten them. It’s a game most of us are looking forward to.”
*While Thursday will mark the third time in his career Ramsey has played against what essentially is his hometown team, he said the game’s location adds little meaning. “Not at all, actually,” Ramsey said. Ramsey, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft from Florida State University, is from Smyrna, Tennessee, and attended Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy. “My family’s super-supportive,” he said. “They come to home games. They come to some away games. It won’t matter to me if they want to stay home and watch the game on TV like they always do. It’s probably a little better view and they won’t have to be in the cold. But if they want to come to the game, they’re welcome to come to the game. I’ll hook them up.” …