JACKSONVILLE – The sun shone; weights went up and down.
Familiar faces greeted one another, new faces interacted with old and the requisite clanking iron – not to mention the deafening, pulsating music – was somehow overwhelmed by the unmistakable, overwhelming odor of …
Mixed with a healthy dose of confidence.
Yes, it felt like spring again around EverBank Field Wednesday – the opening of the Jaguars' 2016 offseason program. And once again the nine-week, three-phase, mostly-voluntary official program brought enthusiasm, energy, optimism. Except it's different this time, of course.
This time there's urgency. A lot more than before.
"I would say so," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "It's time to see some results."
Indeed, if there was a theme around the 'Bank Wednesday, that was it.
Not that there hadn't been urgency before. And yeah, if you feel like you've heard and read these things before, no one here will say you're blatantly wrong.
But you couldn't listen to players Wednesday and not feel a difference.
The players put in work in the weight room on Wednesday as they continue their offseason workouts.
All of the building, all of the signings …
All of the drafting, all of the developing …
All of the three-plus years that have been the Dave Caldwell/Gus Bradley era …
Well, it's not fair to say they all have pointed to this, because this build is about the long-term and not just one season, but it is fair to say there's a different feeling about this offseason program.
And if that feeling brings added expectations, the player at the center of those expectations – quarterback Blake Bortles – seemed very comfortable with the concept Wednesday.
"It's cool to have the added hype, the added pressure, the added whatever … because people see the potential, I think," Bortles said. "We've shown we have the potential to be special."
That's notable, and that's the feeling you get listening to Bortles, and to wide receiver Allen Hurns, and to wide receiver Allen Robinson …
Yeah, there are expectations about this improving offense. And yes, there are expectations about this team.
But that's OK, because these are guys who expect to be good.
They're confident – not cocky, confident. And they should be. They deserve to be.
That's an optimistic outlook, no doubt. And it's true that every offseason has been positive in the Bradley/Caldwell era, but it's also true that past optimism was often about the future.
In the 2013 and 2014 offseasons, the good feeling around EverBank Field was that the right direction had been found, that the culture was changing. Owner Shad Khan was a reason, and the foundation of the roster that Caldwell and Bradley were building felt like reasons, too.
That ratcheted up in 2014 with the drafting of Bortles, and it ratcheted up again last offseason with a slew of free-agent signings.
But the optimism in 2013/2014 felt very much like what would be eventually, and the 2015 optimism? That was optimism because it felt like this thing we were seeing – this long, difficult building process – was oh-so-close to "getting there."
And it was close last season. There was improvement. There was the emergence of core players. There was competitiveness. There just wasn't enough to win.
Well, now there's no playoffs-or-bust-mandate because mandates aren't necessary in the NFL – and they're not Khan's way, anyway.
But there's sure a feeling around the building that the steps taken the past three seasons need to reach their destination this season. The progression from rarely competing in 2013 to getting closer in 2014 to competing far more often than not in 2015 has just one logical step in 2016: turning those narrow, frustrating losses into victories more often than not.
That's the feeling around the 'Bank. That's the expectation. And the players feel it.
"We've been fortunate," Posluszny said. "A lot of organizations would have said, 'It's been three years. You didn't get the job done. Time to blow it up and start all over.' We're very fortunate that that's not the case here, and that we're in an organization where we're building things slowly, properly, so we'll have success for years to come.
"We feel like as players we need to play to a higher level, play to the standards that we want and see some results on Sunday."
Indeed, that was the overriding theme this week as the players who will form the core of the 2016 Jaguars came together – and make no mistake: Although the Jaguars will draft new players next week, the players who will make the biggest difference – the core – already are in the building.
That core knows the expectations. It knows it must win. It knows close is no longer enough.
But it's also evident this week that the players forming that core hardly could be more comfortable with that knowledge.