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Inside the Jaguars: Sanders ready to return

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars to have rookie Ace Sanders return punts for the first time during the regular season on Sunday.

JACKSONVILLE – Ace Sanders heard the news early this week.

Told he would be returning punts Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, assuming the role four games into the regular season, the rookie from South Carolina responded intuitively.

“Let’s go,” he said.

And indeed he will.

Sanders, a fourth-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft from South Carolina, started at wide receiver for the Jaguars in the first three games of the regular season, but Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley confirmed on Friday that he will indeed return punts against the Colts Sunday.

“He’s going to be our punt returner,” Bradley said Friday as the Jaguars (0-3) prepared to play the Colts (2-1) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

Sanders returned two punts for a 13-yard average in the preseason and had returned 53 punts for an 11.2-yard average with three touchdowns in college.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Sanders, who has 10 receptions for 103 yards as a receiver this season. “It’s another opportunity to get the ball in my hands, and to try to make a big play for the team. I’m just excited.”

Sanders will take on the dual role with the Jaguars already thin at the receiver position.

Wide receivers Mike Brown and Stephen Burton were among four players ruled out Friday, and Bradley said the team likely will activate Jeremy Ebert and possibly rookie Tobais Palmer from the practice squad. The Jaguars have activated Ebert from the practice squad each of the last two games.

The Jaguars’ receiving corps Sunday under that scenario would be Cecil Shorts III, Sanders, Ebert and Palmer. Aside from Shorts, the group has 11 NFL receptions.

The Jaguars got positive news Friday at tight end, with Bradley saying that veteran Marcedes Lewis will be active Sunday. He had missed the first three games with a calf injury.

“We’ll monitor him as the game goes on but he appears to be really good right now,” Bradley said.

Also, Alan Ball – a veteran cornerback who missed last week’s loss to Seattle with a lingering groin issue – is expected to start Sunday, meaning the Jaguars will start Ball and Will Blackmon at cornerback with rookies Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans at safety.

The following players were listed as probable on the injury report Friday: Guard Uche Nwaneri (knee), Ball, Blackmon, running back Maurice Jones-Drew (ankle), Lewis, defensive tackle Roy Miller (elbow/knee), guard Will Rackley (knee), linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (right hand).

Gabbert practiced full all week and will start Sunday, with Bradley saying he improved throughout the week after missing the last two games with a lacerated hand.

“He’s in a good (frame of) mind right now,” Bradley said. “I think he feels real good.”

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