COURTESY OF JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
(Opening statement) "Okay, it's come out about [DT] Rodney Gunter, so I saw you guys saw that statement that was put out by him. And these are the things I think that are very difficult. You know, things come up that are out of your control, it takes away what you love and what you want to do. I've watched Rodney over the course of the summer at times, you know he was rehabbing. You know, the amount of work that he put in, the professionalism that he had. It's our goal to try to get him here in a capacity where he can help our football team, which I think he can. So, we extended that to him and obviously it's during a difficult time where there's a lot going on, so it's just an awful feeling, it really is. You know, it's just tough. I think to move forward here, obviously, we signed [DT] Tim Jernigan, a guy who's played in this league. So we're looking forward to seeing what he can do, along with the rest of the guys up front. Stopping the run has been a big focus for us and some of the things that we did, some of the moves that we made, some of those guys aren't here. So it's going to put a challenge for us to make sure we find those guys, develop those guys, whichever way we have to do it. I mean, that's something we have to get done. So we're continuing to keep working on that. Another thing, another unfortunate thing, [LB] Quincy [Williams] fortunately, the surgery went well on the core muscle, so he should be coming back here, training with the players and seeing where he's at. I don't have any roster decisions yet, 'Are you going to do this with him, do that with him?' We just wait to see what happens after surgery is over and then we look at where he is from a rehab standpoint and then those decisions are probably made later or when we get more information. The next thing is [TE] Josh Oliver was running yesterday, non-contact, and he broke a bone in his foot. So he'll have surgery tomorrow and, you know, it's just an unfortunate thing. It's something that can happen to any of us, sometimes you understand the contact part of it, but the non-contact stuff just happens, and I guess you just chalk it up to be a bad break. I mean, he was in shape, he was doing really well, we were really excited. He's devastated, obviously, because it showed that he put a lot of work in, coming in. Today in practice, you won't see Myles Jack, he got sick last night. It doesn't seem to be COVID-19 related. So, he won't be in the building, and so hopefully we'll be able to get him back once he feels better. It sounds like just symptoms of being under the weather, but in this day and age we've just got to be careful, so that's what we're doing with him. You know, the other guy, [DE/OLB] Aaron Lynch, which I excused, he's taking care of something personally. So he's dealing with that and we'll see where that is as we go forward, so we're in communication with him so it's not an issue. But I just want to tell you guys, so this way I'm upfront telling you where we are with the team, who's out there, who's not out there. [TE] James O'Shaunghessy, it's a day off for him. We're working him back, so you'll see him out there, but on the side. And then [OL] Cam [Robinson] I think we're getting close, so hopefully by the end of the week. He's doing walk-throughs, doing a lot of stuff like that and obviously it's just the on-field stuff. And we feel we'll get a good indication tomorrow when we test him, and we feel like we'll have him later in the week. So we should be at full strength. Today is the first day of pads, you know, I talked to the players. Everything is a ramping up-type period, so my goal is we want to get used to it, we don't want to see people on the ground, we don't want to be leaving our feet. You'll see today, we'll have one-on-one O-line/D-line and it'll be a highly competitive period. Obviously, they're all competitive, but in some areas it's safety first. We're just going to work our way into—getting ourselves into those types of drills to where we can see if somebody has the ability to play or not. And we have a lot of time left for that, so we just want to get out there. It's restricted as far as time wise, 90 minutes is what we're allowed on the field. I think that's—I really like the way it's going, as far as the buildup and the time. And I think it's really helpful for our players as we get ourselves ready to go. The other thing that came out, obviously, the PA in the league [NFL Players Association] that they're going to continue testing. I think from getting a feel for the players and the coaches, including myself, I think there's a comfort level on that. And I think that was a good thing, it's one that I think that we all embrace, and I haven't heard any negative talk about that. When it comes to doing things to try to keep us all safe. That's where we are as a team and I think that's it for the opening."
(On DT Rodney Gunter's status) "Like I said, we've offered a position for him to come and help our football team. You know, obviously, it's not on the field, but I think he has a lot to offer. As far as the medical, as far as what could happen, what can, I think Rodney might be able to explain that better. I think it's probably best for him to tell that story. I could only tell you from where we are right now. You know, we like him, we feel like he can help our football team, even though it's not on the field, which was the number one thing. So hopefully after this very tough period calms down, I told him to get back in touch with me and he'll be part of the staff in one way or another."
(On whether DT Rodney Gunter accepted the position offer) "He was appreciative of it, but again, I think if we all try to just take a moment and put ourselves in his shoes, you could see how difficult a time it is. So that offer is extended for a long period of time. It's not going to be something that, 'Hey I need a decision now.' I told him, 'Hey, get everything, there's a lot going on, we have all the support here for you. We don't want you to feel like you're left out alone.' I think that's a credit to, obviously, [GM] Dave [Caldwell], [Jaguars Owner] Shad [Khan], you know, ownership, to be able to have that type of understanding. In a league, at times, that is business-oriented and for lack of a better term, sometimes cut-throat. So I feel proud that we're doing the right thing."
(On whether the process of bringing in DT Rodney Gunter via free agency and with the restrictions affected the finding of his condition) "I don't know, that's a good question. I think that maybe [Director of Public Relations] Tad [Dickman] can get you the medical procedures on anything on that. I've seen it before where guys have gone for a couple years and things have gotten caught. More so coaches, with their physicals at times, there's a lot of things that happen that you feel fortunate, when you look in perspective, that have basically saved lives. I think that this is a league that is built on safety, this is a league that's built on doing the best job, having the best medical care, for both coaches and players. And I think it's appreciated. So, I really can't answer whether what was done before could've done it or now, but I think I wouldn't know all the ins and outs of testing and what test shows what."
(On DL Dawuane Smoot's progress and role moving forward) "I think he's changed. I think you guys that are out there have seen and talked about his body type. I mean, he's bigger, he's stronger, he's really trying to take advantage of the reps that he has. I know that he will be able to help us and now it's just a matter of seeing how much. I think that I feel very good about where he's at. I think that he's worked extremely hard and it shows. These next couples of weeks, like with a lot of these players, we'll see what ability they have to help us win. But Smoot has done a really good job and I've told him that. I like the way he's practicing and I like where his mind is. He's really focused and he's really working on things to make our team a better football team, which I think is important. I'm just really happy and if it does get on his plate, where he does have to do more, I don't have an issue with that either. I think you're dealing with a player that's going to give you everything he has, every time. Whether he's good enough or not, I think that we'll see, but that's what we're working for."
(On whether he has ever experienced something like this for three years in a row) "Probably not, no. But, [it's] part of the challenge."
(On the frustration when plans are changed so close to the season) "Yeah, I don't know if it's scrambling or like high-anxiety, it's a matter of, listen, some of the young guys that we have are going to have to step up and we've got to get them ready to go. I think that there's opportunities from now throughout the start of the season where you can acquire players, whether it's the other players' positions that are loaded on some teams. We'll have to make some moves, or maybe it's a trade? There's a lot of options out there. I don't think we're in that mode yet of scramble. We're in that mode of planning. I think that these things, kind of the way you've mentioned it. You know, during a game, you have a game plan and all of a sudden, you're like, 'Holy cow this plan's not working, we've got to go to something else.' So you've always got to be able to make adjustments in what you do. And the one thing I think I've learned over the history of this league is even though you're doing all these moves or you're doing all these things to fix things and you feel comfortable, at any moment in time those things can change. And you've got to be prepared and you've got to be able to do it. I think that in doing so, I know that there will be a lot written about, kind of like you said D-Rock [Mike DiRocco], these plans that they have, have been blown up. But it's also a great opportunity and a great challenge for these other guys to step up and if you have that happen, that's great. Especially the young guys, we're looking—the guys that we're talking about were guys that were experienced, guys that have done it before. Having those veteran type of guys brought in, we still have a decent mix, but now it's a little bit more on the younger guys and guys that have been here, to step up. Whether it be Taven Bryan, Smoot, you know, [DE/LB] Josh [Allen] has done a great job, he's worked extremely hard. You know, he helped the linebacker crew, which will help us out there and the run defense. Really getting—you know, you might not have, per say, the one player that can dominate and stop it, even though I think we have some guys that can develop into that. But it'll be a challenge for the wave, you know what I'm saying, the wave of D-linemen that we have and putting them out there. So those are a couple things that we're looking at and discussing. As we work to get everyone better, we're not going to focus on things that are outside of the building, or at least the coaches and the players aren't. Whereas myself and [GM] Dave [Caldwell] and the scouts, we'll look at things and discuss things. Our focus still needs to be on the players that are here, the coaches that are here and getting the guys that we have good enough for us to be a winning football team."
(On whether DT Tim Jernigan is practicing today) "Sure, he has gone through his COVID-19 protocol, so he's been tested. So he'll be on the field and he'll be practicing today. The way the rules read, once everyone clears the COVID-19 protocol, they immediately go into whatever phase you're in. You know, if you pick someone up later on, it wouldn't be a 14-day phase, or a 10-day build up. So, when those players, obviously, go through a COVID-19 protocol, whatever phase you're in as a football team, they immediately get put into that phase. Now, obviously we'll see where he's at. I haven't seen him on the field, tape is the only thing I've seen, so I'm sure that we'll be smart in working him back and we'll see where he's at."
(On how tough it must be for a player like TE Josh Oliver, who was injured last year, to be injured again)
"Sure, he looked good. I mean, those first couple days, it was exciting. I think that's what the business element of it—okay here's the injury, he's not going to be able to go, so put it to the side and move on. You know what I'm saying? Next man up, this and that. I think that when we write that or I talk about that and people read it or they hear it, they tend to kind of go with that program. Because they're not next to that player, they haven't been able to see what that player has done, or the amount of time we've put in, or even if someone like Josh who was injured last year, wanted to come out and prove something, you know, I'm sure within himself, to a level of excitement from, not only his teammates but the coaches –'Hey this guy's really going to be able to contribute and we're really going to get a lot out of him.' So there's a lot of emotion that goes into it or a lot of empathy that goes into the player, you know, what he's done. And I think those are the things that probably get lost because whether it's not that big of a story, or it's hard to communicate. I know it's sometimes hard for me to communicate that because I'm trying to paint a picture for everybody of what this player has done and how dedicated he's been and how disappointed he is. And then, the next step is you go into this rehabilitation process and that was happening two years for him. Is he questioning himself? And you want to motivate the player to really rehabilitate in a way that he can come back even stronger. So, there's a lot that goes into play when it comes to these situations. And I think a lot of times it's like, 'Okay this player got hurt, we'll move on, let's go.' But there is so much more to it than probably what people can understand."
(On how he communicates unfortunate news to the team) "Yeah, I think there's a lot of different ways. I think, first off, just putting the truth out there. You know, obviously the team knows. I mean, these guys are in the locker room. The empathy that I feel, I think the locker room obviously feels with these players. I think there's a lot of times where you're sitting there and you're thinking 'Have I taken my health, have I taken my ability to play or my ability to do my job, have I taken all that stuff for granted? Am I just looking at that as I'm invincible?' I think a lot of times we talk about, with our faith, how this game can be taken away from you at any moment, for any of us. How do we want to approach it? How do we want to live our lives? I think there's unfortunate things that occur all the time and I think it gives you, for some of us, I think it gives you the ability to step back and realize how fortunate we are. And are we going to take advantage of this opportunity or are we just going to take it for granted? So I think that's probably the way—or it is the way how I think about it, how I communicate it. I think you're right, it's not gloom and doom, it's not going to happen to everybody, but it does occur and that's part of the sport. And how you handle it and how we support those players that go through that tough time, I think it is important. Especially at this level, it's the professional football league. Whereas in college, you're supported by the student body, you're supported by your family, you're supported by your teammates, you're there, it's pretty much locked it. I think when things like this occur at this level, 'Hey is he going to be able to come back? Is he going to play? Is he going to be part of the team? Is the team going to keep him?' There's a lot of other things that get involved that I think we as players and coaches know, and that's what we've got to do a good job of, continuing that support."
(On S Ronnie Harrison's performance and expectations) "I think we're going to have pretty good competition at the safety position. I think that Ronnie has had some success on the field, and I think we need to make really great strides on the strong safety and the free safety position. Right now, he and JDub [S Jarrod Wilson] are back there. But I think you look at a lot of these younger guys, whether it be Brandon Watson, who's done a very good job for us on special teams and is really starting to practice well, getting to learn that position even though he converted. Josh Jones, a guy that has been flying under the radar, that's really showed up and has done some really nice things, so we'll see how it goes now. Andrew Wingard has done a good job on teams, he's gotten much better, you know, you can see that on the field. J.R. Reed who's a free agent from Georgia, you know, he's big, long, he can do some things. So we've got some guys back there, we've got about 7 players back there for about 4 positions. I think that we're going to see a lot in these next couple days, for what we ask those guys to do. They're practicing well, they're all healthy, which is a good thing, so we'll be able to see how much better they've gotten or if they're going to be good enough for us to put them out there on the field and win with."
(On adding FB Bruce Miller to the team and his experience value) "I didn't really know a lot about him. I mean, I didn't know a lot about his time in San Francisco, I didn't really know a lot about his time at UCF and this didn't happen quickly, this happened, this has been over a period of time, because obviously, I think everyone knows my relationship with Coach [George] O'Leary who was the head coach at the University of Central Florida. Also, my relationship with Jack Reale who was Coach O'Leary's agent when I was at Georgia Tech [University]. So I had known—Coach O'Leary I've known since I was 16 years old and worked for. And Jack Reale I've known since coaching with Coach O'Leary at Georgia Tech. So, you know, I got a phone call over the summer and I just told him I can't make any promises. And then [I] really did a lot of research. I had a lot of questions, had a lot of things going on as far as what I wanted to do. And the only thing I said was we'll see where we are, and we'll bring him in for a workout. I mean, if everything's cleared and there's no charges, and all this other stuff I said. I mean, obviously I went deeper than that with personal conversation. But I didn't really know what to expect, and then we brought him in for a workout and then all of a sudden, he runs better than I ever expected or maybe anyone expected. He's in great shape, you know, he looked good out there. I mean, he looks like he belongs, and we'll see where it's at. I think that, you know, that position, like I said, if he's a fullback, he's got to be able to catch the football, he's got to be able to play special teams, I've got to be able to get the snaps to put him on the roster, when talking about numbers and things of that nature. Or whether it's a tight end, if I put an extra tight end. Do I keep an extra tight end to fill that position or do I keep an extra fullback to keep that position? I think it's something that we would like to do, but it's something that we're prepared that if we don't have one, that's fine. There's a lot of other things that we can do formation[-wise] and things of that nature. So, we just want to make sure that we put something together where we can get the best players on the field and people that can help us win."
(On concern with the depth of the defensive line knowing that Week 1 is just four weeks away) "Yeah, I think that you're always looking to get better at certain positions. As camp goes on, you're looking to see what positions you might have a chance to upgrade at. I think that some of them really—if you're thinking you're going to upgrade getting a shutdown corner, you're dreaming, if you're thinking about upgrading to get a pass rusher, you're dreaming, if you're upgrading at a left tackle position, you're dreaming. So I think there are certain positions that you can upgrade, but right now, we have an opportunity and I think that if I stand up in front of the team and I say, 'Ugh we're done, we can't stop the run. We've got to get players; we've got to go out.' What does that say about the players that are here? We believe the players that are here have the ability to do it. Now it's just a matter of going out there and them showing us that they can do it. And if they do, then obviously as a coach, you're going to feel much better about it. I think if you see issues that are going to happen and you don't want to jump the gun and make those decisions too quickly—that someone can't do it and not give someone the opportunity, then you're going to put yourself in trouble there too. You know, if you're looking to hope to get somebody to help you outside of what you have right now, that gets you in trouble in this profession. If you're saying to yourself 'Okay this is what we have, how can we do a better job and maybe do somethings schematically to help yourself there?' Now I believe you're working in the right direction. So, I think it's important and I think a lot of stuff is going to be out there about devastating injuries, stopping the run, losing all these guys—which is the truth, I totally understand that—but at the same time, I'm going to be open to giving these guys an opportunity to see what can happen and try to get us better."
(On schematic changes on the depth chart) "I say let's see what they can do, first, before we start making those decisions. Because when you change this schematically, you're changing everybody; what their responsibilities are and what they're doing. And I just have one last comment, I just want to say: nine in a row."