Already without suspended receivers Justin Blackmon and Ace Sanders as well as injured starter Cecil Shorts III (hamstring), the Jacksonville Jaguars got even thinner at the position Thursday.
Receiver Tandon Doss, expected to be the team’s punt returner, badly injured his right ankle on the final play of practice. Doss got his ankle caught under linebacker Geno Hayes during a red-zone play. He screamed in pain as trainers rushed to place his leg in an air cast. X-rays were negative, showing no broken bones, but Doss is expected to miss significant time.
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Making matters worse for Jacksonville, rookie receiver Allen Robinson felt tightness in his right hamstring – the same injury that kept him out during organized team activities – and sat out most of practice.
”That’s kind of the name of the game,” fellow receiver Mike Brown said. ”It’s a very physical game, lot of contact, and the reality is that injuries do happen. When those injuries happen you’ve got to have a next-man-up mentality. Everybody has got to be ready to step in. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you, so hopefully guys can capitalize on the opportunity.”
Two more players were hurt Thursday. Rookie guard Brandon Linder, a third-round pick from Miami who has been working with the first team, sprained his right foot. And linebacker John Lotulelei sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
But much of the talk after practice was about the wideout position.
Jacksonville can’t seem to catch a break at that spot this year. The Jaguars were down seven receivers during OTAs, and learned two days before training camp that Sanders would miss the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Sanders took a leave of absence from the team to seek counseling.
Blackmon hasn’t been around since getting suspended indefinitely last November for repeated violations of the league’s drug policy.
Shorts, meanwhile, strained his right hamstring in the opening practice of camp and has out since.
He will have some company on the sideline now, joined by Doss and probably Robinson.
”It’s just one those things,” receiver Lamaar Thomas said. ”It’s part of the game. It’s going to come up. Unfortunately those things have come up early in the season. Hopefully later on in the season you won’t have to worry about those problems.
”As an organization, as a team, you expect to have some injuries throughout the season. And you expect to have guys step up and fill those roles. You feel bad for guys like Cecil and TD, and hopefully those guys will be healthy for the season, but it’s a chance for other guys to step up during camp and make some plays when called upon.”
Doss signed a two-year contract worth $1.5 million in March. He spent the last three years in Baltimore and had his most productive season in 2013. He caught 19 passes for 305 yards last season and returned 23 punts for 359 yards. His 15.6 yards-a-punt average led the NFL.
Without him, veteran cornerback Will Blackmon and rookie receiver Marqise Lee will split punt-return work.
”It will give guys an opportunity to grow, and we’ve just got to continue to be smart,” coach Gus Bradley said. ”I think the challenge for us now is when you do lose some numbers is to not to pile up the reps on other guys. That will be the challenge for us right now. So we’ll take a look at it and get a feel after we get a report from the trainers where we’re at.”