Jaguars get different feel for training camp with practice at high school
ST. JOHNS, Fla. — This was as close as the Jacksonville Jaguars will get to Monday night football this season.
In a break from their usual training camp routine, the Jaguars practiced for two hours and 15 minutes at Bartram Trail High School, which was where the New England Patriots held workouts when the Super Bowl was played in Jacksonville in 2005. More than 3,300 fans came out, with many of them waiting along the fence surrounding the field for autographs afterward.
"To pick up and come to a different facility and be asked to perform at a high level, that was a challenge," coach Gus Bradley said. "I thought that was really good for our team to come here in this environment, and they really enjoyed it. They really did."
"We had a good time," said tight end Marcedes Lewis, who was startled before practice to see a picture of himself from his high-school days shown on a video in the locker room. "It’s always good when you’re able to get outside your element and compete and get better. And you know how monotonous camp can be. But that’s Gus."
During the previous three days, the Jaguars began their practices shortly before 10 a.m. at the workout facility adjacent to EverBank Field. This time, they took a 25-minute bus ride before arriving at the school at 4:30 p.m. and took the field at 6.
They’ll return to their usual ways Wednesday after a day off Tuesday.
"It made you feel like high school, when football became so important to you," said defensive end Red Bryant, one of their most noteworthy offseason free-agent additions. "It’s great. It keeps you grounded and reminds you of why you love this game so much."
The second day of practicing in helmets and shoulder pads — full-pad workouts will start Wednesday — didn’t go smoothly for the offense. Chad Henne’s first pass in 11-on-11 drills was batted in the air by end Chris Clemons and intercepted by 310-pound tackle Roy Miller. And the Jaguars saw another receiver go down when tight end Clay Harbor had to be helped off with a strained right calf.
Bradley preferred to look at things a different way.
"I thought the defense looked really well," he said. "It was really crisp. I saw a lot of our fundamentals coming through at all positions."
"(Sunday) the offense had a great day," Bryant said. "They were able to make explosive plays and really put us on our heels. I feel like we responded."
Wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson weren’t the only rookies to get reps with the first-stringers. Third-round pick Brandon Linder got extensive work at right guard, while fifth-round selection Chris Smith got more of a look at the pass-rushing defensive end spot where he’s competing against Clemons and Andre Branch.
Veteran Will Blackmon and second-year cornerback Demetrius McCray alternated at the cornerback spot ordinarily manned by Alan Ball, who has yet to practice because of an ankle injury. Bradley expressed hope that Ball will be ready Wednesday.
"We’ll see, but we’re optimistic," he said.
While training camp will now be focused on looking forward, the Jaguars were happy for one night to have an opportunity to look back, even if some small measure of embarrassment was involved.
"I don’t know where they got that high school picture from," Lewis said. "But it was good to see it again. I hadn’t seen that picture in about 12 years."