JACKSONVILLE – It's unusual. That's the first thing.
But while Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said that's true, a strange Week 1 vibe isn't his overriding theme this week. That theme remains constant – that he really likes the team that will face the Indianapolis Colts in the 2020 regular-season opener at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I'm excited to see what we can do," he said.
Marrone, speaking to the media via teleconference early Monday afternoon, spoke at the beginning of what will be an unusual NFL Week 1 with games being played in front of reduced crowds or empty stadiums because of COVID-19.
COVID-19 also caused the offseason to be virtual, with no on-field work. Training camp was held with no preseason games.
"It is a little bit different, meaning: 'It's here we are' – without the same type of buildup,'' Marrone said. "A lot of those things have changed. As it goes, I think it will start building up and building up. That's how we want to do it with our players.
"We don't want a lot of things to all of a sudden change because it's game week."
Marrone spoke two days after the team reduced its roster to 53, a day that came after a week when the Jaguars parted ways with three players with 44 combined starts last season: defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, running back Leonard Fournette and safety Ronnie Harrison. The departures have caused many observers to question the team's chances, questions Marrone doesn't share.
"I like the communication with the players," Marrone said. "People on the outside may say, 'What does that mean?' Talk from the players, rallying from the players, a team-first attitude … that's exciting.
"There are some years you come in and you say, 'OK, if we it adversity, which way are we going to go?' You really don't know until you hit it. This team … I feel real confident in in handling any type of adversity. I feel confident in this football team being able to handle anything that's thrown at them."
Marrone also praised league and team officials – and employees at all levels – for how COVID-19 has been handled in recent weeks and months.
"There's so much that has been done from a league standpoint – from an NFL [Players Association] standpoint – to get us to where we are," Marrone said. "If you back to a couple of months ago, to the anxiety of not knowing what was going to occur, to be here in Week 1 getting ourselves ready to go and feeling confident we'll be able to play it's really an amazing feat. …
"There's a high confidence level in everyone right now. I don't know if I would have been able to say that early in the year before training camp started."
*Marrone on Monday said he expects running back Ryquell Armstead to be out "a while." Armstead, a second-year veteran who currently is the lone player on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list, also missed time in camp with a groin issue. "I can't put a real timetable on it, but he'll be out for a while," Marrone said. …
*Marrone on Monday emphasized that the three running backs on the Jaguars' roster – Chris Thompson, Devine Ozigbo and James Robinson – were the "three top guys in camp. I'm excited to get these guys out there and watch them go. Those guys will be ready to go." Marrone confirmed that the Jaguars have spoken to former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. "We'll see where it goes," he said. …
*Defensive tackle Taven Bryan, out the last two weeks with a bone bruise in his knee, practiced Monday after being 100 percent throughout the weekend.