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First off the Field: Joeckel ready for move

Posted Oct 2, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars LT Luke Joeckel: “I’ve always been a left tackle my entire football career.”

JACKSONVILLE – Luke Joeckel is back where he began.

He’s probably there to stay for a long time, and at the very least, he’s back where he played in college and where he is most comfortable.

As of Wednesday, Joeckel is the Jaguars’ starting left offensive tackle, a move that came in the wake of the team trading left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens late Tuesday.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley early Wednesday afternoon called the trade “pending,” and said Joeckel will move from the right side to the left side. He also said second-year veteran Austin Pasztor will start off at right tackle with competition from third-year veteran Cameron Bradfield.

Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, called Monroe “a good friend,” and said he talked to Monroe Tuesday evening.

“He kind of brought me along and took me under his wing,” Joeckel said of Monroe Wednesday as the Jaguars (0-4) prepared to play the St. Louis Rams (1-3) at the Edward Jones Dome Sunday at 1 p.m.

“I thanked him for that.”

Joeckel, who started three seasons at Texas A&M on the left side, is considered a more natural fit there, but the Jaguars left Monroe there for the first four games of the season with Joeckel working on the right side.

“I feel like I have the quickness to play left,” Joeckel said. “I’ve always been a left tackle my entire football career. I’ve always been on the left side. That’s just what I’m comfortable with. I tried to get adjusted to the right side, but it’s going to be nice going over to the left side. It’s going to be more comfortable.

“I had to embrace the position I was in. I wanted to go out there and be perfectly comfortable playing right tackle and to be the best player I could be for my team. It was definitely a challenge. I always wanted to be a left tackle. This is a great opportunity.

“Having Eugene there was a huge help, learning from him, but I have to step up now.”

Of Joeckel moving to the left side, Bradley said, “It’s back to his natural position. I think he’s excited about it.”

Jaguars veterans said while hearing Monroe had been traded was difficult, it wasn’t necessarily shocking.

“It’s sad to see him go,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said of Monroe, who started 62 games for the Jaguars since being the No. 8 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. “He’s a great player and a player that’s been around for a while doing some great things here. Obviously we were able to get some value for him and our front office wanted to make a trade.

“It’s tough to see him go, but it’s part of the business. As much as fans hate that, that’s what it is. It’s a multi-billion dollar business, and if a team can get something for you they will.”

The Jaguars are 0-4 this season, and Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said since his January hiring that the team’s long-term plan is to build through the draft.

“Obviously this move makes that clear, but we still can continue to do the right things, practice hard, better our offense and better our team and do the right thing,” Jones-Drew said. “It gives some young guys some opportunities to make plays and do a great job, and we expect that out of them.”

Bradley said early Wednesday that it would be natural for players to wonder about their own futures, but said there are no trades or actions pending.

“That runs through your mind, but we have 12 games left,” Jaguars eight-year veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said.

Jones-Drew said it’s not an issue about which a player can worry.

“All you can control is how you play, how you perform and your attitude when you’re in here,” Jones-Drew said. “That’s all we’re going to do, we’re going to continue to work hard and continue to perform at the highest level that we can.”

Also on Wednesday:

*Wide receiver Justin Blackmon returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since the week of the Jaguars’ final preseason game. He served a four-game, NFL-mandated suspension, but will play against the Rams Sunday. “It was very frustrating just sitting there watching the team play,” Blackmon said, “but just been working out and trying to get ready to get back out there and play.” Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, caught a team-high 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns last season. While he could not practice or play during the suspension, he was permitted to work out at EverBank Field and was with the team during their week in California preparing to play Seattle. “I’m just ready to get back out there and play again,” he said. . . .

*Bradley on Wednesday talked about Pasztor’s ability to help in the run game. He started three games at guard last season, and is expected to make his first start at right tackle Sunday. “Austin will bring toughness,” Bradley said. . . .

*The following players missed practice Wednesday: Wide receiver Mike Brown (back), Lewis (calf), cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle), wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion), safety Dwight Lowery (concussion), defensive end Jeremy Mincey (concussion program), wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin), center Brad Meester, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive end Jason Babin. . .

*Bradley said it’s unlikely Brown will be available, and that he’s not counting on Lewis to play. Lewis left Sunday’s loss to the Colts in the first quarter after missing the first three regular-season games and Brown hasn’t played since the opener. . . .

*Shorts left practice early after his groin tightened up, but Bradley said his situation isn’t thought to be serious and that the move was precautionary. . . .

*Mincey is being tested for a concussion, Bradley said . . .

*Gratz will not play Sunday, Bradley said. . . .

*Bradley said Meester, Miller and Babin were veteran days off. . . .

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