JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two days into their training camp, the Jacksonville Jaguars must be wondering what else can possibly go wrong at wide receiver, a position where they were suspect to begin with.
A week in which Ace Sanders was suspended for the first four games of the regular season and the suspended Justin Blackmon was arrested in Oklahoma got worse Saturday when the Jaguars learned they will be without Cecil Shorts III for at least two weeks with a Grade 2 strain in his right hamstring. Shorts, who caught a team-high 66 passes last season, was held out for the latter portion of Friday’s practice after sustaining the injury in a non-contact drill.
"Can’t catch a break right now," said Shorts, who underwent a sports hernia operation and missed the final three games of 2013 and also missed much of the Jaguars’ organized team activities and all of minicamp with an injury to his left calf. "Can’t catch a break, but hey, everything happens for a reason. My plan is to come back stronger than ever."
Shorts thought at first that his injury might have been nothing more than a cramp. He said he felt something in his leg while jumping to catch a pass and suspected it might be more severe by the time the offense began 7-on-7 drills.
"I couldn’t really explode like I wanted to," he said. "I was able to run and stuff but not like I wanted to. So they kind of sat me down."
At the very least, Shorts will miss next week’s intrasquad scrimmage at EverBank Field and the Jaguars’ preseason opener Aug. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In a worst-case scenario, this could be a repeat case of the calf injury tight end Marcedes Lewis suffered during the preseason a year ago that limited him to a total of three plays during an 0-6 start to the regular season.
Coach Gus Bradley is hoping Shorts will be available sooner rather than later.
"We trust Cecil so much as far as being ready mentally, knows what to do," he said. "We’ll have enough time, so we’ll be OK."
"I’m not going to put no, ‘I’m going to be back in two weeks. I’ll be back by this date,’" Shorts said. "I’m not going to do that because I don’t know yet. It’s just something that we’ve got to be careful with because when you get soft-tissue injuries you might feel fine and then you come back too early, boom, you hurt it even worse."
On the bright side for the Jaguars, second-round draft picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson have made it through two practices with no flare-ups of the injuries which sidelined them during minicamp. And several lesser-known receivers made some crowd-pleasing catches Saturday in Shorts’ absence, particularly Kerry Taylor with a fingertip grab of a long throw down the left sideline by first-round choice Blake Bortles.
Bortles and Chad Henne had an interception-free practice in which Bradley was especially pleased with the Jaguars’ execution on offense in two-minute drills.
"In that two-minute session, the 7-on-7, the whole receiving corps did a really nice job competing," he said.
That included Allen Hurns, the undrafted rookie from Miami who stood out during minicamp while both Lee and Robinson were unavailable. Hurns worked with the first-string unit when the Jaguars went to a three-receiver formation in practice.
"Chad was really impressed with him," Bradley said. "He said he just continues to get better."
"Right now I feel real comfortable in the offense," Hurns said. "I’m not doing too much thinking on the field. It’s more about details like route-running and things like that."
But the ex-Hurricane would rather earn extra playing time on merit instead of due to Shorts’ unavailability.
"I’d love to have Cecil out there," Hurns said. "It’s just the competition in our group. We’re always helping each other."
"It’s always tough when back-to-back injuries happen to you," Shorts said. "I’m not going to lie to you: It’s difficult. But I’m going to stay positive about it. Being frustrated is not going to do anything for me so I’m going to stay positive and attack this rehab and get this thing right."