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A clear message

Posted Dec 17, 2011

Khan makes strong impression during first meeting with Jaguars players

Marcedes Lewis said the message couldn’t be mistaken.

Shahid Khan, three days after being unanimously approved by league owners as the new owner of the Jaguars, met on Saturday for the first time with the team’s players.

Lewis and other players said this was no, “Hello-How-Are-You” meeting – that, instead, Khan took the opportunity to discuss not only the future, but his expectations.

That expectation is to win. And that doesn’t mean next season.

“That’s basically what he got across,” Lewis, the Jaguars’ Pro Bowl tight end, said Saturday afternoon.

Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars’ two-time Pro Bowl running and the NFL’s leading rusher, said Khan told the team that after winning his first Super Bowl his goal would be to win another.

“That’s something that’s very exciting,” Jones-Drew said. “He’s going to put his best foot forward to help us out there, and I’m excited to get us going.”

Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker said there was “a lot of anticipation” before the meeting, and that the players seeing Khan face to face and getting a chance to talk with the next owner “was good for them and good for him as well.”

“It was very positive and the guys did have a little pep in their step when they hit the field today,” Tucker said shortly after a Saturday practice.

Players said one thing was clear meeting with Khan:

Losing isn’t acceptable, and the final two games of the season are important despite the team’s 4-10 record and absence from the playoff chase.

 “You can look in his eyes and see motivation,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “He’s ready to make change and he’s not waiting to make change. I don’t know the specifics, but I know he’s making a change to lean toward winning.

“I totally agree with him. No one wants to be a loser. No one wants to be at the bottom of the pile. It’s all about winning and he’s coming here to generate some wins.”

Jones-Drew described Khan’s approach in the meeting as “frank.”

“There was no beating around the bush,” Jones-Drew said. “It was exciting. You just want to know how he sees things and how he expects to get things done and what he expects out of you.”

Lewis and other players said Khan expressed unhappiness with the team’s 41-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons Thursday.

“He did talk about that,” Lewis said. “He did express that he was not happy with our loss, but who is?”

Said Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, “He’s a very competitive person.”

Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said he got the impression of a person willing to do whatever was necessary to win.

“He’s going to make whatever changes have to be made – whether it be updating the locker room, or signing a top free agent,” Knighton said. “Whatever it’s going to take to win, that’s what he’s going to do.”

Lewis said his first impression of Khan jibed with what he had heard about the Illinois businessman who is expected to take over control of the organization January 4.

“He’s a good, good guy straightforward,” Lewis said.

Players said Khan spent part of the meeting telling players his story, how he moved to the United States at age 16 to attend the University of Illinois, and how he turned his company, Flex-N-Gate, into a multi-billion dollar, worldwide business.

“He correlated it to us playing football, and how we need to have a business mentality,” Lewis said. “Everything we do is about being business-minded when we’re on the field. He brings a different energy and that’s exciting to see.”

Said Gabbert, “He told us the story about how he started in his own garage and worked his way up. He was competing with a lot of different companies that were much bigger than him. He outworked them and outcompeted them and he was the last one standing. His story of success and living the American Dream was presented to us. We were excited because he has been a winner in the business world and he wants to carry that over to the National Football League.”

Gabbert said he believes such a carryover is possible.

“It starts with the owner,” Gabbert said. “Wayne and Delores (Weaver) have been great and Mr. Khan is going to be phenomenal as well. It starts with them. They’re competitive people who want to win and have that drive. It’s just a trickle effect. It carries down through everybody in the organization.”

Mincey said Khan’s is a story to which players can relate.

“He built from the ground up,” Mincey said. “He knew what it took to get to where he is today. He struggled and he had his times in a hard situation and he fought his way out of it, so I feel like he’s the type of guy to lead an organization and overcome all of the things going on around here.

“Everyone talks about the Jaguars are a small market, and need more exposure. That’s what he’s trying to do.”

Mincey said following the meeting he was “elated.”

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I think the Jaguars having a larger identity in the NFL is definitely a plus, not only for the organization, but for Jacksonville. I think this guy has what it takes.

Mincey said while Khan offered no specifics, he said, “If you watch enough football, you know what we need. We know the negatives and positives. We know what to clean up. He’s identifying whatever the worlds sees. You see flaws. I’m sure he sees them, too.”

Also Saturday:

*Khan said Friday Tucker is a serious candidate to become the permanent coach, and that the two would meet this weekend to begin getting to know one another. Tucker said he indeed met with Khan Saturday, and said of Khan saying he had a legitimate chance at the job, “I take him at his word.”

*Gabbert addressed the continued criticism of media and other observers toward him this season: “Criticism is a part of the game. There are a lot of other factors that go into playing quarterback. We take the brunt of the criticism and that’s how it should be. We’re the face of the team and the ball goes through us on every play. I know things haven’t gone well this year and I haven’t played how I wanted to, but there have been a lot of positive things that have gone on. We’ve been dealt some unfortunate cards, but it’s the way you respond to these situations and the way you get better from them and the way you learn from them is what’s going to make you a better player.” Said Tucker, “He’s well-grounded. I think he’s able to put things in perspective. That’s very important.”

*Tucker said most of the Jaguars’ injured players will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. The team did not have to issue an injury report Saturday, but wide receiver Mike Thomas (concussion), wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring), defensive end Matt Roth (concussion) and right tackle Guy Whimper  (thigh/knee) did not practice and safety Dwight Lowery (shoulder) appeared to work limited. Jones-Drew did not practice after rolling his ankle Thursday and Tucker said he expected Jones-Drew to return to practice next week in preparation for Tennessee.

*Tucker said wide receiver Jarett Dillard may continue to return punts depending on the status of Thomas.  He also said wide receiver Taylor Price could play a role there. Dillard fumbled the Falcons’ first punt Thursday, a play that led to a touchdown an

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