Jaguars open camp to new coach’s beat
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — New coach Gus Bradley’s first practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars came amid music: some rock, some rap and even a few pop songs blaring from sideline speakers.
It set the tempo — literally.
The high-paced, two-hour practice Tuesday kicked off a three-day voluntary minicamp for veterans. The Jaguars barely took a break during the session, which was designed to give new coaches some extra work with their teams before next week’s NFL draft.
But the thing that stood out, especially to the 77 players and 20 coaches on the field, was the score.
“We just believe that it really elevates the performance,” Bradley said. “It’s not just to have music out there. We found out that music, without going into too much detail, how many beats there are in a song and things like that elevates everybody’s performance.
“We’re trying to compete. … We’ve got to do everything we can to get practice at the highest level, the highest level. And if that means play some music at the same time, we’re going to do that.”
Players raved about Bradley’s technique, which he learned while working under Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
“Going into my eighth year, I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “First day of minicamp, they’re throwing everything at us: blitz period, hurry-up offense, two-minute drill, the whole kitchen sink at you the first day. … Everybody came out here with the right attitude and we got it done.”
The Jaguars went through similar practice tweaks last year.
They spent much of the 2012 offseason adjusting to former coach Mike Mularkey and his staff, learning new schemes, new terminology and a whole new way of doing things.
So this was even more change for those veterans who survived Jacksonville’s offseason facelift.
And even though Mularkey’s practices also were up-tempo, players remember them more for having to keep helmets in a straight line during stretches and for an offense that was more complicated than it needed to be.
“We’ve got a clean slate,” Lewis said. “Everything that happened last year is a blur now. All we can control is our future and right now. Everybody that’s in here, we understand that.
“Everybody’s talking about the coaches and how great they are. It’s one thing to be able to coach great, but it’s another thing to be great people coaching. These are great people that actually care about you. We feel that. We thrive off that. And the energy has been great since Day 1 and we’re going to continue to feed off that and get better every day.”
Coming off the worst season in franchise history, the Jaguars have plenty of room for improvement. The offense ranked near the bottom of the league for the second consecutive season while the defense was 30th.
Jacksonville finished 2-14, leading to the firing of general manager Gene Smith and Mularkey.
Owner Shad Khan tasked Bradley and new GM Dave Caldwell with rebuilding the franchise through the draft, which resulted with the team parting ways with about two dozen veterans and several starters.
“It’s the start of a new era — again,” guard Uche Nwaneri said. “At the same time, it’s an opportunity for guys to come out here and get to learn their coaches, get to learn the system and get comfortable with their surroundings and their environment.”
Nwaneri (knee) was one of nine players who sat out Tuesday’s practice. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), defensive end Jeremy Mincey (ear infection), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee), guard Jason Spitz (foot), fullback Montell Owens (knee), running back Jordan Todman (knee), tight end Matt Veldman (knee) and receiver Jerrell Jackson (groin) also missed the workout.
Defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith strained his left calf during practice.
The practice wasn’t seamless as quarterback Blaine Gabbert, learning his third offense in as many seasons, struggled in team drills.
The playlist, though, got nearly as much attention.
“It’s hard to have high anxiety and compete,” said Bradley, who hopes to keep steady pressure on his players in every practice. “It’s almost physically impossible. It’s extremely difficult, so anything we can do to alleviate anxiety. You say, `Oh Gus, it’s soft.’ We’re not talking about soft. That wasn’t soft what we just did out there.
“We allowed them to play fast so they could put full concentration into their assignments and the execution and their effort. Those three principles — hard, fast and together — and the music helps do that.”