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Will Garrard have to 'shoulder' the load?


He has the shoulders of an offensive tackle; broad, thick and muscular. But David Garrard is a quarterback; a young man with a rare physique for the position he plays.

His sturdiness may come in handy this season. Garrard may have to bear the burden of uncommon pressure for a rookie.

"It's difficult to absorb a system to the point of being highly productive, but it's rare that a backup has to be highly productive," Jaguars starting quarterback Mark Brunell said in response to a question about the possibility of Garrard serving as Brunell's backup this season.

Most expect the Jaguars to sign a veteran backup; someone such as Tony Banks or Charlie Batch. But Banks recently had surgery on his throwing hand and Batch could cost more than the Jaguars want to spend, and some have speculated coach Tom Coughlin may go with Garrard as the backup for as long as Garrard proves he can handle the job.

"He has a lot of skill, he's intelligent and he has a future," Brunell said of Garrard. "The Jaguars will make the right decision."

In five mini-camp practices and, again, in the Jaguars' Tuesday pre-camp workout, Garrard flashed a strong arm and nimble feet. He has the tools.

"I can see he was worthy of a fourth-round draft pick. I can tell you that," Brunell said.

"If that's what they feel must be done, that's OK," Garrard said when asked his opinion of the Jaguars shopping for a veteran backup quarterback. "The competitor inside me does want to be the backup. I'm going to keep trucking along until my number is called," he added.

At East Carolina, Garrard was a four-year starter. He is not a raw talent; his skills were refined in a pass-oriented offense. But this is the NFL.

"I didn't think with the pro-style system we had (at East Carolina) that it would be that much of a difference, but it is," Garrard said.

Over the next three weeks, in the Jaguars' pre-camp, Garrard will define the degree to which he can be expected to develop into a pro-caliber backup quarterback as a rookie. Then, Coughlin will make his decision on whether to spend precious salary cap room on a veteran journeyman, or hope Garrard's broad shoulders can carry the load.

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