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Doug Pederson opened his first training camp in Jacksonville with a police escort.
The Jaguars freshman coach and 91 players boarded a five-bus caravan to drive the 5 miles from TIAA Bank Field to the nearest high school for their first practice on Monday. Despite the extra safety, the fast ride gave an old school feel to the new school coach, whose main goal is to lead one of the NFLclunky franchises returned to respectability.
“Ten minutes on a bus full of 50 guys, yeah, that’s pretty close,” Pederson said.
Jacksonville landed at Episcopal School for camp due to a $120 million renovation of the team’s driving range. The 18-month project includes three new fields (one indoor) and a 125,000-square-foot sports center that will house meeting rooms, offices, a gym, locker room and more. It is scheduled to open next June.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, will be shifted somewhat for practice. They worked primarily from their playing field for organized team action, but that option was not an option given the daily workload associated with training camp.
So team officials looked at five local locations, including the campuses of the University of Jacksonville and the University of North Florida, before settling on Episcopal because of its close proximity and the fact that it was wide open in June, July, and August.
“When you comply with (Collective Agreement) and you have an 11-hour day, you have to take into account travel and all that,” Pederson said. “It takes practice time, meeting time, whatever you can do. You have to solve some of these problems… This summer has been quite fun to watch everything develop.”
The Jaguars refurbished two lacrosse/soccer fields to mimic NFL-grade playing surfaces, installed a range of electrical outlets, and delivered two portable goalposts that were actually constructed and welded together from six taken down from old practice fields. They rented equipment, buses, and security, bringing the total bill for 14 days of practice to over $1 million.
“We can do anything here,” Pederson said. “The only thing we have to be careful about is the weather, but that is why we are in the mornings and hopefully there will be no storms in the morning. We just don’t have a ton of cover (and) player safety #1 and we just need to make it work. We have plenty of time.”
Not as much as usual.
The Jaguars opened camp almost a week after Las Vegas. The teams play in August. 4th place in the Game Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Pederson expressed no concern about the preseason game 10 days later. He is unlikely to play many starters and felt that the players had done enough in the OTA, so much so that he gave up one workout and exempted most of the veterans from the mandatory three-day mini-camp.
“We don’t start over. We pick up where we left off.” — Second Year Quarterback. Trevor Lawrence said. “Everything we talk about, we fly by because we already installed it a couple of times. With this knowledge, and everyone can just quickly understand when we install, it’s good. We can add new wrinkles faster because we’ve already done it.”
Pederson’s first practice at camp lasted a little over an hour, and it’s the latest player-friendly approach taken by the longtime NFL reserve QB.
Jacksonville hasn’t included anyone physically unable to perform, and he has several rehab veterans close to making a full comeback. Running back James Robinson (Achilles tendon) may be the last to return. Robinson, who had 1,837 ground yards and 15 touchdowns in two seasons, tore his Achilles tendon in late December. He worked on the side on Monday and expects a full return in mid-August.
“This is a good sign. I saw how hard he worked to come back this spring and this summer,” Pederson said. “He’s done a great job of putting himself in a position where we don’t have to (rush him back), but still be careful with him and make sure he’s ready when he’s ready.”