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View from the O-Zone: In this case, less is a lot more


JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes, less is more.

You know what else less can be sometimes? Smart. And sometimes – like what the Jaguars did this weekend by pretty much eliminating the concept of "rookie minicamp" – less is something beyond that.

Sometimes, it's the only thing that makes sense.

First things first:

The Jaguars are having sort of a rookie minicamp this weekend, though they're calling it a "rookie orientation." The rookies that made up the team's most high-profile, most-discussed, most-anticipated draft class in recent memories indeed gathered at EverBank Field Friday. And as they did things on one level looked and sounded familiar.

"I'm living my dream," said Jalen Ramsey, the first ballyhooed selection of a very, very ballyhooed draft class. "I'm definitely riding a high. This is the best time of my life right now. I'm definitely living my dream. I'm happy."

See? Ramsey, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, was there on Friday and he said happy, rookie minicamp-type things. Linebacker Myles Jack – the second-most ballyhooed selection – was there, too. He will speak to the media Saturday and undoubtedly will say happy things, too.

Sheldon Day, the Jaguars' fourth-round selection, also was happy Friday. Really happy.

"It's definitely surreal," Day said. "Me and [rookie free agent cornerback Briean] Boddy-Calhoun were just talking about, 'We're actually Jaguars. We're actually here in this moment.' We're definitely living it up."

Images from the first day of Jaguars orientation.

Yes, happy and optimistic is the tone of any rookie minicamp, and it's the tone of this orientation, too. In that sense Friday felt like pretty much any past rookie minicamp. Smiles on fresh, young faces. Handshakes, meetings, introductions. Young guys learning their way around new hallways, meeting veterans, getting their bearings in a new strange place.

Here's what wasn't happening around the 'Bank on Thursday.

Those young faces – the seven draft selections, seven young veterans, nine undrafted rookies and two tryout players – weren't practicing.

They actually weren't even coming all that close to practicing. They went on the field a bit, but this was in no way a full-speed, body-taxing event.

If less is more, the Jaguars did a lot more Friday. And in this case, that was smart.

The Jaguars are approaching this weekend this way for the first time. The Miami Dolphins are taking a similar approach, and other teams reportedly are toning down rookie minicamps to varying degrees. For the Jaguars, the change came in the wake of a 2015 rookie minicamp in which defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. – the No. 3 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2015 NFL Draft – sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament less than an hour into the first practice.

Just like that, Fowler's rookie season was over before it began.

Fowler's injury absolutely factored in this decision, and with reason. The unforgettable, deflating scene of Fowler leaving practice last May would be enough on its own to prompt such a change.

But Fowler's injury was far from the only reason. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said he more and more throughout his career has considered the rookie minicamp something in which the reward doesn't remotely justify the risk.

Think of it: drafted rookies spend four months training for the draft. They train to run 40-yard dashes and do combine-type work, things that don't necessarily prepare for football work. They do this immediately after an extended stretch of preparing for and playing their final college season. After their pro days in March, they often do little until the draft.

"It's never really made a lot of common sense to me," Caldwell said recently. 'You always just crossed your fingers and hoped for the best. I think this [Fowler's injury] gave us good reason to do it."

Fowler's devastating, season-ending injury was relatively rare. What wasn't as rare were pulled hamstrings and soft-tissue stuff, injuries that might keep rookies out for weeks of offseason work.

"If a guy pulls a hamstring, then all of a sudden he spends the next six weeks rehabbing instead of getting better, stronger and in shape," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "As you see it more and more, it kind of makes you think a little bit to say, `OK, this might be a legit deal.'''

So, yes, this weekend in a sense was less. Less work for the players. Less practice time. Less football stuff.

But if you were there last May and watched Fowler leave the field, if you felt the joy drain rapid-fire out of that packed crowd … if you had seen the faces of scouts, coaches, personnel types around these offices afterward …

Well, if you saw any of that, then it's easy in this case to realize sometimes less is more.

And sometimes it's the only thing that remotely makes sense.

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