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View from the O-Zone: Time to work


JACKSONVILLE – It's over, at last.

Branden Albert on Tuesday made it clear he understands that, and made clear he understands what matters when it comes to the NFL.

It was business that kept the veteran left tackle away from EverBank Field during the voluntary portion of the Jaguars' 2017 offseason program. Albert also made that clear when speaking to the media Tuesday following the first day of 2017 mandatory minicamp.

Yes, Albert is here now.

That means the Jaguars' 2017 Offseason Ordeal is over. Time to go to work, to shift focus to football.

"It was business-wise," Albert said Tuesday. "It wasn't personal. Now, it's over with. Now, I get back to work, be the best football player that I can be and move forward."

In a scene that you figured would play out this way, Albert practiced with the Jaguars for the first time Tuesday – working mostly with reserves – then spoke to the media with perspective and poise. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone spoke immediately after Albert, and he made something clear, too:

What will matter won't be the last few weeks; what will matter will be Albert's ability as an offensive linemen.

This is professional football.

No time for grudges. Or pettiness.

"I'm not looking to build any bridges with anyone," Marrone said. "I'm looking to build a good football team and a winning football team. Whoever the best players are, they're going to play. I have enough friends. I don't really need any. I'm looking for good football players."

Albert, for his part, on Tuesday discussed his reasoning for missing the voluntary work. He wanted a new contract after being acquired in a trade from the Miami Dolphins in early March, and he and his advisors figured the way to make that point was by not reporting for the voluntary portion of the offseason. Albert didn't speak with bitterness, or resentment. He also emphasized that the Jaguars never indicated there would be a new deal.

"Not at all," Albert said. "It was just something my advisors and me thought about after the fact. Things didn't get done. Move on. That's it. What I make this year isn't a bad deal. You just look at the market, I had conversations. At the end of the day, you have to move on. It is what it is."

Images from the first day of the Jaguars mandatory minicamp.

Albert also addressed an issue that arose early in his absence – that he had not contacted Marrone personally to let him know he wouldn't be attending OTAs.

This, he said, was also about business.

"In a place of business, things get ridiculed, violently opposed and then you accept it," Albert said. "I do my job, everything will be forgotten about. That's all have to do: learn the playbook and move on."

Circle that last quote and remember it, because Albert couldn't be more right. Things get said and done every NFL offseason, and often those things seem like big deals when said and done. They are in reality small deals that should be and usually are forgotten if a guy can play.

If Albert is good – and the Jaguars clearly believe that is the case – the past few weeks will easily be forgotten and forgiven. As they should be.

Give Albert credit. He handled Tuesday well, and he's right when he said July and August matter and that May and June are … May and June.

Give Marrone credit, too, because the Jaguars' head coach handled this capably and professionally.

Did he like Albert's absence? No, and he made that clear in appropriate fashion. But Marrone is an experienced NFL man, and he knew from experience that offseason business that seems monstrous in May and June has a way of becoming miniscule in the months that matter. Marrone when speaking about the Albert Issue kept this one very much in perspective.

Perspective, indeed, ruled the day Thursday, much of it coming from Albert himself. Though obviously not thrilled to not have the new contract, he talked of being content. He also assured those listening he absolutely would be at training camp, and that he would be ready. And while he said not getting a new contract wasn't easy, he also talked of the last six months being a positive in ways beyond football. And yes, he sounded like a man who perhaps had gained some perspective from his experience.

"I got my body right," he said. "My body is pretty beat up after the last three years being in Miami: mentally, spiritually and physically. The last three years took a toll on me. I found myself as a man, a man of the Lord. I'm just happy to be … to be honest with you, it's hard, but where would you rather be? There are people worse off somewhere. It's a challenge but it's a blessing at the same time.

"Not everybody is blessed to play this game. I'm just really happy to be here."

Albert left the podium a while later, the Jaguars' 2017 Offseason Ordeal over at last, and his focus back on football.

Yes, he's here now. Time to go to work.

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