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View from the O-Zone: No fireworks … just work

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JACKSONVILLE – To be honest, this day wasn't what some expected.

The joint practice Wednesday between the Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers maybe wasn't qu-i-i-te as dramatic as some hoped. And maybe there were none of the headline-making scuffles that sometimes highlight such team-versus-team August NFL activities.

Actually, there's no maybe about it. Wednesday's first of two joint Jags-Bucs practices at the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field featured no fireworks, no fisticuffs, no brouhahas.

There were no theatrics, either. So, if you were looking for such things … well, no.

Here's what Wednesday did feature:

A couple of teams acting professionally, and working to prepare for the upcoming regular season.

That's not headline grabbing, but for a lot of those involved, it was just fine.

And it was even welcome.

"I loved it; I thought it was great for our team, a lot that we can take away from this practice," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said afterward.

You know what Wednesday's practice was? A practice – and all that that entails.

No fights. No scraps. No coaches having to hold players back.

Though NFL practices in fact are mostly scrap-less these days, such stuff sometimes takes place when two unfamiliar teams get together. And there was more than one scuffle earlier this week when the Bears and Patriots practiced. That was part of the reason a lot the buildup for Bucs-Jaguars mentioned the possibility of such things.

When Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks was asked about it not happening at the 'Bank Wednesday, he didn't sound sorry punches were pulled.

"Today was good," Marks said. "They were pros. Our guys were pros. Everybody went out and got good work."

No, Wednesday was pretty much your standard, regular practice. Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter worked the field nearest the stands where the Buccaneers' offense and Jaguars' defense worked much of the morning and early afternoon. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley ran the middle field where the Jaguars' offense worked against the Buccaneers' defense.

Afterward, Bradley talked about the Jaguars having a touch of anxiety mentally early – and about the positives of working through such a thing.

Images from Wednesday's joint practice with the TB Bucs.

"You go against a different team that gives you completely different looks," he said. "You have not really studied them and the personnel, you have not studied them so there are some things that were thrown our way …

"But the ability to adjust quickly, the mental toughness part … I think is good for that."

The first-team unit from each team pretty much worked against the other first-team unit. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles worked on one field. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston worked on another. Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson made a touchdown catch, as did wide receiver Marqise Lee, tight end Marcedes Lewis and a few others.

The one-on-one pass rush work was relatively uneventful. When the teams did run-oriented drills there was contact, but not much to-the-ground tackling. When players did go to the ground, coaches weren't thrilled. That's NFL norm these days, too. Players are encouraged to keep their feet, all the better to avoid unnecessary injuries.

The Jaguars and Buccaneers also worked some seven-on-seven. They worked some 11-on-11. They finished with red-zone drills. It was there that the Jaguars' offense seemed to do its best work.

Marks said what was perhaps most notable was what took place between plays, between drills.

"We talked back and forth," Marks said. "There were things we didn't see, some things they didn't see. They'd ask what we saw. It was great. They were awesome. I think we got good work out of it.

"Sometimes, teams come out with egos. Sometimes, it's from the top down. I think both coaches did a good job explaining what we were out here to do. It's not a damn game. We're just preparing to get yourself better. It's a chance to go work on a skill. Both teams heard the message and it showed."

Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said the fact that the Jaguars and Buccaneers don't play this season – and that the teams reside in different conferences – perhaps contributed to Wednesday's peaceful, easy feeling.

"You can get different perspectives on how you're being attacked and how a team is attacking you, which is great," Posluszny said. "When it was time to go, you played hard, ran fast and hit as hard as you could. At the whistle, it was, 'All right, go on to the next play.'''

The teams will work again in a similar capacity Thursday with ESPN's cameras on hand, and with on-air personalities Ron Jaworski, Josina Anderson, John Buccigross and Sal Paolantonio on hand, too. The World Wide Leader's cameras bring a prime-time feel – even on sweltering, August mornings – and their presence will certainly make Thursday a busier, more festive day at the fields next to the 'Bank.

If Wednesday's work is indication, those festivities may not include fireworks, fisticuffs and brouhahas. And theatrics may be absent, too.

And for those involved, that would be just fine.

 
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