The Jaguars are putting the finishing touches on spring drills this week, just as first-round pick Reggie Williams is about to begin his.
"I missed a lot. I missed those reps on the field, but I'm not too far behind," Williams told reporters following this morning's practice at Alltel Stadium.
Williams, the ninth pick of this year's NFL draft, said he will spend the time between now and the start of training camp in Jacksonville, learning his playbook. His quarterback, Byron Leftwich, has even more intense plans for the player who is expected to become one half of the Jaguars' pass-catch combination of the future.
"Me and him will have a lot of time in June and July. We'll be out here every day making sure he's ready to go," Leftwich said as he left the practice field.
NFL rules forbid Williams to practice with the Jaguars (following the post-draft mini-camp) until his college conducted graduation ceremonies, which the University of Washington did this past Saturday. Even though Williams was not enrolled at Washington this spring, the rule applied to him, which forced him to work out in Houston at a pro training facility.
"He's behind. He's got some catching up to do. That's the hand we were dealt," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Leftwich announced his intentions for Williams this morning when Leftwich forced a deep pass for Williams over the middle, even though Williams was covered closely by cornerback Rashean Mathis. The pass was intercepted by Mathis, but what was most important was the message Leftwich may have been delivering. Leftwich is going to look in Williams' direction.
"We got a long way to go. We don't start playing games that count until September. We'll be ready to go," Leftwich said.
That raises a more important issue: Will Williams be in training camp on time?
Leftwich didn't sign a contract until late in last year's training camp, and the practice time he lost was thought to have had a negative effect on his rookie development. Clearly, the Jaguars want to avoid that situation with Williams.
"I think the odds are good," Williams said when asked about the prospect of having a contract negotiated for the start of training camp. "I understand it's a business. They know where I want to be," he added of his agents, Karl and Kevin Poston, considered to be one of the most demanding negotiating teams in football.
When told Williams said he's determined to be in camp on time, Jaguars lead negotiator Paul Vance said: "I'm determined to do that, too."
Now the real work begins. Williams has to learn his playbook and develop a relationship with Leftwich. The Jaguars have to get him signed.
"The challenge for us is to finish strong; not look ahead at vacation but to remain focused on what's going on," Del Rio said of the final two practices before players are dismissed. "We've thrown a lot at these guys. We want to introduce everything now and when we go to training camp have it all on tape, have it all installed."