JACKSONVILLE – They spoke of hope and pride.
The Jaguars mixed the two together and sprinkled in professionalism when meeting with the media on Wednesday. They did so for a simple reason:
Hope isn’t lost – not officially. And in professional football, that means there’s still … well ….
Even when little has gone as planned.
“Every week you say the same thing and I’m sticking by it: I feel like we can get a win,” middle linebacker Myles Jack said Wednesday as the Jaguars (3-6) began preparing to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
“That’s just my job. I feel like we can win them all. That’s how I feel when I line up.”
What do you seek when times are tough? How can the Jaguars possibly do something – anything – to change the direction of a season gone suddenly and strangely awry?
As Head Coach Doug Marrone sees it, it comes down to a couple of simple “P words.” And if they’re not cool “P words” like playoffs and postseason, they’re important “P words:”
Professionalism and pride …
You don’t have hope in the NFL without them, which is why Marrone quickly mentioned both following Sunday’s loss and again Monday.
“A lot of times it’s about being a pro,” he said at the time.
And though he didn’t mention them speaking to the media Wednesday, the message resonated with players.
“Things aren’t going the way we want them to, but at the end of the day we have to come together as a unit and compete,” wide receiver Dede Westbrook said. “We know at the end of the day, it’s a band of brothers in here. In order for us to get the job done and accomplish what we want to as far as winning out, we all have to be in the same boat.”
Defensive tackle Abry Jones was asked Wednesday if pride and professionalism were important in the wake of a five-game losing streak that had dropped the Jaguars to last place in the AFC South.
“It’s important every week,” Jones said. “Even though the year isn’t going right, that’s no excuse to be late to meetings, have bad body language, bring bad energy to practice. We’re out here still fighting. We don’t know where we’re going to be at the end of the year, but we still want to give ourselves a chance. “Come to practice and be a pro. If you don’t like how things are going don’t put bad energy out there, don’t mope, come to work.”
Jones then changed the subject to pride.
“It’s one thing to have a bad year, but where pride comes in is how you face the bad year,” Jones said. “Are you going to go out every Sunday and compete and show the fans we’re not giving up on this team? We know they haven’t given up on us. We’re not going to go out and just go through the motions.
“It’s easy to see when a team has quit. That’s the pride we’re going to uphold. We’re not a quitting team.”
Marrone on Wednesday spoke of liking how players seemed to be approaching the week. Marrone said he talked with the team about only taking what’s discussed in meetings to the practice field but working during the week in a to ensure the work carried over into the game.
“That was the point of emphasis,” he said. “They looked like they’re ready to go to work.”
Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell on Wednesday reiterated what he has said often in recent weeks – that his perspective hasn’t changed and that his hope certainly isn’t lost.
Campbell acknowledged that the Jaguars’ “margin for error is now zero.”
He also emphasized that that doesn’t mean the season is over.
“We have to bury the past, put it behind us, look forward and take it one day at a time,” Campbell said. “We have to find a way back into this thing, but with our talent, our team and our coaching staff and the way we prepare, I don’t see why we can’t make it happen.”
Campbell, as professional and prideful as any Jaguars player, said while the team’s backs are “against the wall,” his mindset is still very much that the team can accomplish its goals – even when doing so potentially could mean having to win their final seven games.
“We have the ability to do something special,” he said. “I don’t see why not.”
That was the way it was around the Jaguars’ locker room Wednesday – and as many players saw it, that was the only way to be given the surprisingly difficult circumstance:
Hope and pride with a heavy dose of professionalism mixed in.
Even when little has gone as planned.