This is the offseason, and as the Jaguars’ veteran quarterback sees it, the NFL offseason is the time for talk and speculation. For others, that is. For players, it’s a time for preparation.
That’s what Henne said he is doing now, preparing, so come training camp – the time that matters – he will be ready. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley is about competition, and as Henne sees it, August will be about competition between him and
Yes, Henne said, he will compete. And yes, he said, he plans to win the job.
“My job is to come in and compete – again,” Henne said during the Jaguars’ 2013 minicamp, which continued Wednesday afternoon with the second of three minicamp practices at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
“I think it’s a little more competition than last year. They’re putting me in different spots, allowing me to get the ‘one’ reps and really allowing me to get involved with it. That’s what I’m excited about. My job is to get better from last year and to prove to the guys I can be the leader and quarterback of this offense.”
Forget the speculation. Forget those who believe Gabbert will start.
What Henne said he is doing is listening to Bradley and Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch. To Henne, they are who matter. They talk of open competition, saying nothing to the contrary. That’s why the quarterbacks have taken shared repetitions with the first team and the second team. The idea is to have even footing.
“The coaches haven’t said anything to us,” Henne said, “so if they don’t say anything, I feel like I’m in the running. Obviously, it’s their decision in the end who they feel comfortable with, but for me, it’s just give them every hope I can do it and lead this team.”
Henne got his chance to lead the team last season.
A sixth-year veteran from Michigan who started 31 games for Miami from 2008-2012, he signed with Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent in the 2012 offseason. He began the season as a backup, moving into the starting lineup when Gabbert sustained a forearm injury against Houston. Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in that game, led the Jaguars to a victory over Tennessee the following week, then finished the season with 2,090 yards passing and 11 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
Head Coach Mike Mularkey and General Manager Gene Smith were fired following the season, replaced by Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell. That put many Jaguars players in a position of uncertainty. Henne was no different.
“Obviously, it was tough, but it’s a business,” Henne said. “The new guy steps in and as a player, it’s back to Step One. You were the starter then, and now you don’t know what you’re going to be. You just have to improve and work your can off every day and prove to them you can still play and be their guy.”
And when Bradley preaches competition?
“That’s excellent for me, because that’s what I come in to do,” Henne said. “This is my sixth year, and I’ve started a bunch of games and did OK. But I feel there’s still more out there. That’s what’s great about this situation. They know me, but they won’t see me and they won’t see anybody else until they get the pads on.”
And make no mistake: That’s what Henne said he’s working toward. Whatever conclusions get drawn from organized team activities and minicamps will get drawn, but that’s preliminary stuff, quickly forgotten in August.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Henne said. “The offseason and minicamp and OTAs are great for competition. Everybody’s in shorts. We’re flying around, but when it comes to the preseason, when you’re under the fire and into the regular season, that’s when you’re going to see, ‘Does the preparation from the offseason continue over?’ That’s when you evaluate a quarterback.
“It’s great to evaluate them now, but it all comes down to the real game, performing. At quarterback, you have to win. If you don’t, they’re going to find somebody else.”
Henne said that’s why his approach in OTAs is heavy on studying, and heavy on preparing.
“It’s a learning curve where I want to learn as much as I can about this offense, study, learn how to get in and out of plays for audibles,” he said. “When I come to the preseason it will be about taking what I learned in the offseason and applying it to games. When the coaches are off the field and it’s just the player, that’s when you find out what kind of quarterback you really have.”
Henne said he remains confident that come training camp he will show what needs to be shown and that he can be the quarterback who can lead the Jaguars. His goal, he said, is still to be a franchise quarterback.
And for speculation about what might happen in training camp, Henne learned long ago to shut out the noise. He has been here before, and knows little counts until the pads come on.
That’s six weeks away. And as Henne sees it, that will be the time that matters.