Bortles opens rookie minicamp with Jags
By Paul Tenorio
By Paul Tenorio
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (MCT) — There was at least a fraction of familiarity to it all when Blake Bortles jogged onto the practice field for the first time as a Jacksonville Jaguar on Friday afternoon.
The Oviedo, Fla., native had slipped a football helmet over his head thousands of times before. The stretches and drills were mostly the same. He was still just throwing a football.
By the time Bortles walked off the field a couple of hours later, however, it was obvious how different things are now. Hundreds of fans lined the metal barriers inside the facility adjacent to EverBank Field holding out footballs and helmets and jerseys for Bortles to sign. Cameras surrounded the former UCF star.
For 15 minutes, Bortles zigzagged from one side of the pathway to the other, signing everything he could grab before being whisked away to the locker room. This is life now for the Jaguars' new franchise quarterback.
"It was awesome," Bortles said. "The fans were unbelievable. I've never seen so many people at practice before, so it was a lot of fun. The energy was great, the atmosphere was unbelievable and we had a blast practicing for the first time."
Bortles arrived in Jacksonville on Sunday night for his first week as a professional football player.
He is already making decisions about where he will live in his new city and has put in 12-hour days to try to pick up the new offense. He has been struck, at times, by the grandeur of the NFL.
"Look at this locker room," he said as he stood next to a ping pong table under a glowing Jaguars' logo in the middle of the team's dressing room on Friday.
But otherwise, he has tried to keep life as normal as possible.
Bortles went through a grinding practice on Tuesday, and then trained again on Wednesday before the first public practice on Friday afternoon. The crowd was the biggest the team has ever seen for a rookie minicamp, according to Jaguars employees. Two grandstands were full and the standing-room areas were packed. Bortles was the main attraction of a draft class that has the Jacksonville fan base energized.
The 6-foot-5 quarterback had to fight a strong crosswind throughout the practice, and though not every pass was perfect, it was less about the perfection of each throw and more about the rookies' ability to understand the intricacies of the Jaguars' practice routine.
"We wanted to come out here and work through that so that when we start our (Organized Team Activities,) we can take off running," Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley said. "So, I thought (Bortles) did a nice job. He got a lot of reps today. ... But we tried to get them in a rhythm and as we went through it I'm sure he did some things that were good, some things he needs to improve on, but he needs to capture and keep going with it."
Bradley praised Bortles' competitiveness in these first few days, saying the rookie has been in the front row at meetings taking meticulous notes and texting coaches with questions as he studies.
The former UCF standout is likely to sit for most of his first season in the NFL, but Bortles said his approach will not change based on those expectations.
Even on his first day, Bortles said he had no nerves and aimed to just, "let it rip."
"My job is to come out here every day and work my tail off and compete as hard as I possibly can and that's all I'm worried about," he said. "I enjoy sitting in the quarterback room (with Chad Henne and Ricky Stanzi) and learning as much as possible. ... Being able to come out here and compete, I'm going against myself every day. Tomorrow the meter will be today, and that's what I'm trying to be better than."