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A crazy week

Posted Dec 13, 2011

Thursday game means limited time for preparation and planning

Dirk Koetter said it was obvious early this was no ordinary week.

That was clear late Sunday afternoon, the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator said. Less than an hour after a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coaches were at their desks, watching film, preparing for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Because Thursday’s game is a road game, it means the Jaguars will travel to Atlanta on Wednesday, and that leaves . . . that leaves . . .

Well, it just doesn’t leave a whole lot of time.

“You normally have a little more time,” Koetter said Tuesday afternoon as the Jaguars (4-9) prepared to play the Falcons (8-5) at the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta Thursday at 8:20 p.m.

“I’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had this kind of a turnaround. We’re traveling tomorrow. We just came in after putting in our Day 1 install stuff and we’re traveling tomorrow? It’s just crazy.”

Crazy, in this case, means compressing a week of preparation into two and a half days.

Whereas a normal week entails coaches game-planning Monday evening and Tuesday, with three days of full practice and a Saturday walkthrough, this week’s schedule included Sunday evening and Monday game-planning, a Tuesday unpadded practice and another no-pads walk-through Wednesday.

The team will then travel to Atlanta Wednesday afternoon.

There’s no way to truly replicate a normal week, Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker said, so the emphasis becomes on being prepared mentally and doing whatever it takes to be something close to prepared physically.

“It’s more mental than physical today,” Tucker said Tuesday, adding. “It’s a short week, it’s very, very important that we get the mental work in.”

Koetter said the biggest change from a normal week is the absence of a full-speed practice.

“There’s just no way,” Koetter said. “The guys who have been playing, their bodies just can’t come back fast enough, so to go out and ask them to practice hard, that’s just not a reasonable request. You have to get your mental reps.”

Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert said what is sacrificed in on-field work is made up for with off-field time in film and meeting rooms.

“You do a normal work over all the regular install stuff, but we’re going to be doing more stuff on our own, less physically taxing stuff,” Gabbert said.

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said by far the biggest challenge is preparing physically. He said he began sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber several weeks ago to prepare for trying to recover from a Sunday game to play approximately 100 hours later.

“That’s always the toughest part on Thursday night games, is physically getting your body right, being prepared to travel,” said Jones-Drew, the NFL’s leading rusher. “Travel always takes a toll on you. Just being ready to go up there and play at a high level. We’ve got to get healed up as fast as we can. That’s why you see a lot of guys were in here yesterday, right after the game getting treatment. Doing everything we can to try to start the rehab process or healing process.”

Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said the only way to approach such a week is to focus only football, and do whatever possible to reduce outside distractions.

“It’s different,” Nwaneri said. “The only way to really combat that is just to refocus yourself, and what it is you have to accomplish this week. You can’t have a hangover last week, good or bad. You have to move forward and stay attentive to the task at hand.

“When you get caught up in the variables, that you have to jump back into the week and fly on a plane the next day – those kinds of things can get you off your rhythm and kind of take your focus off the game.”

Players and coaches said one factor making the situation a bit easier is a familiarity with the Falcons. The Jaguars and Falcons played against one another in the past two preseasons, and also have practiced against one another each of the last two preseasons.

“Neither team is going to come out and change their scheme on a short week,” Koetter said. “They have a book on us. We have a book on them. Both teams are going to throw a couple of wrinkles in. Both teams have to balance getting their guys back up ready to play.

“I’m not saying it’s easy or fun, but that makes it somewhat better.”

Marcedes Lewis, the Jaguars’ Pro Bowl tight end, said while the Jaguars are familiar with the Falcons, that doesn’t mean the process is easy. The Falcons’ defense is not a simple one, which Lewis said was a reason behind Tucker’s message Tuesday.

“He led off saying, ‘We’re going to have to have laser focus,’’’ Lewis said. “That just means we’re going to have to be paying attention and pick this thing up, because we don’t have the normal days to prepare that we would. It’s already Friday for us. It’s part of the business. We just have to get it done.”

Said Tucker, “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. We told them ahead of time that preparation for this game was going to start right away, right after the game on Sunday . . . They stepped up big time in going through that process. These guys are professionals. They know their bodies are their business and we have to get ready to go.  . . .

“The players understand it and we all understand as coaches and then whatever the plan is laid out, we lay it out for the players and then we move forward 100 percent full speed ahead on the plan.”

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