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Resting to get ready

Posted Dec 18, 2011

Jaguars players will return Tuesday to prepare for Tennessee.

Maurice Jones-Drew has a specific expectation for the next few days.

First, he wants the Jaguars to get a couple of days of needed rest, but what happens after that concerns the two-time Pro Bowl running back even more.

He wants his teammates to return with renewed energy and focus, and no, Jones-Drew said it matters not a bit that the team is 4-10 and out of the post-season chase.

There are two games remaining, and those two games matter.

“Obviously, the season we’ve had is horrible,” Jones-Drew said Saturday afternoon before the Jaguars took two days off before preparing for a Christmas Eve game at Tennessee Saturday.

“The only way we can kind of save it or feel better as much as we can is by winning the next two – starting off with a win in Tennessee. It’s going to be tough, but we have some things we can do to get better to give us a chance to win in Tennessee.”

The Jaguars, two days after a 41-14 loss at Atlanta, practiced Saturday and will have Sunday and Monday off before returning Tuesday to begin preparations for Tennessee.

“Three games in a 10-day span – it has its benefits and that’s extra time to prepare for Tennessee,” Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “Guys will relax, get some family time, finish their Christmas shopping and come back ready to finish these last two games.”

The two days off, players said, were a welcome rest before a two-week season-ending stretch.

“This is a vital time to get rest in your body, just catching up on some sleep and relaxing,” Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu said. “We need to get our bodies back before we finish strong these last two games.”

That’s because the two days off followed a stretch in which the Jaguars lost to the San Diego Chargers 38-14 in Jacksonville on December 5, beat Tampa Bay in Jacksonville 41-14 on December 11 and lost in Atlanta Thursday.

Eleven days, three games.

“You can definitely feel it,” Knighton said. “That’s part of the game. When the schedule comes out, you prepare yourself for it. We have two days off. We’ll come back well-rested and finish this thing strong.”

Add to that the normal feeling a player gets in December after training camp, four preseason games and 14 regular-season games and you’ve got a team that physically can use a break.

“I’m pretty sure we all feel a little banged up at this point in the season,” Alualu said. “It definitely is something that wasn’t easy, to play three games in that short amount of time. But it’s something we have to deal with and something we have to play through.”

“Said Jones-Drew, “You definitely feel it. To play a professional team three games in 11 days, it’s a tough task, but we’re professionals. That’s why we’re doing it. There was no excuse to go 1-2 in that situation.  We just have to continue sharpening our craft and get ready for Tennessee.”

Knighton said despite the record, motivation is no issue entering the last two regular-season games – and not just because owner-to-be Shahid Khan stressed the importance of winning immediately during his first meeting with players Saturday.

“I enjoy my group – I enjoy my guys and being around the defense,” Knighton said. “We just want to finish it strong for each other, really. We want to finish what we started on defense. I said at the beginning of the year we had a chance to be one of the best defenses in the league. We’ve proven that and we just want to continue to do that in these last two games.”

Jones-Drew said doing so is critical, and that when players return Tuesday, he expects to see a team that has had the benefit of rest – and one that realizes the season isn’t over yet.

“It’s good for guys to get away,” Jones-Drew said. “To be in football for that tough stretch like we were, it’s good to let guys kind of get away, chill out and heal up a little bit. I just want guys to be relaxed when they come back. We went through a lot this season.

“We still have two games left, so there’s a lot that can still go on, but to see guys bounce back and play through adversity, it’s exciting. Hopefully, we can continue on that.”

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