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Jaguars Notebook: Injured rookie DB Jeremy Harris making most of lost season

Posted: December 20, 2013 - 1:57am
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley bumps fists with Jeremy Harris during training camp on July 26.  Bob Self/The Times-Union
Bob Self/The Times-Union
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley bumps fists with Jeremy Harris during training camp on July 26.

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Jaguars rookie cornerback Jeremy Harris fits in. That wasn’t an easy task.

The seventh-round draft choice has been on injured reserve since Aug. 25 after injuring his back early in training camp. Harris never played in the preseason and has yet to wear the Jaguars uniform.

During practice, Harris works out on the side. However, he has shown a diligent work ethic in meetings and in the weight room.

“I think he’s done a really good job,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “He’s put on some weight, he’s gotten stronger, all things that he needed to do. I know his back feels a little bit better and those are all showing signs of progress.”

Harris had never dealt with a back injury before this season. He suffered the injury during a scrimmage.

“I just turned awkwardly and my back went out,” Harris said. “I couldn’t run. I couldn’t lift my leg up or bend over. It was weird.”

The Jaguars will start the offseason following their Dec. 29 game at Indianapolis, but Harris has been in that mode for months in terms of on-field activity.

“I’m making a lot of progress and getting a lot stronger,” Harris said. “I’ve still got to let it heal until I’m 100 percent. I’m really close now, probably 95 percent. I feel like myself pretty much.”

Harris, a California native, has also been embraced by his teammates. Veteran cornerback Will Blackmon had Harris over on Thanksgiving to eat with his family.

“Jeremy is a really good kid,” Blackmon said. “When I was on IR my rookie year [in Green Bay], they let me go home. He’s stayed around. He always has his head up. He gives off a good energy.”

Harris’ transition was also made easier by his position coach. Dewayne Walker coached Harris at New Mexico State last season before joining Bradley’s staff.

“It’s a relief having him around,” Harris said. “It makes me comfortable to ask questions and not be shy. I’m in meetings learning.”

Veteran cornerback Alan Ball has noticed Harris’ desire to make the most of his lost season.

“He’s been a pro about it,” Ball said. “He participates in meetings and takes notes every day. That’s impressive to me to be involved even though he isn’t playing on Sunday.”

At 6-foot-2, Harris has the size Bradley covets. Once he’s healthy, he’ll have to quickly show that he belongs in the race to make the 2014 team.

“He’ll get his chance,” Bradley said. “I think we’re still excited about him, his length, his size and what he brings to the table. Maybe he isn’t able to compete on the field, but he competed in the weight room and on the side doing his rehab.”

Rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien has taken notice of Harris weight-room habits. Harris was listed at 185 pounds prior to the start of training camp.

“He’s lifting weights like six days a week,” Cyprien said. “I keep teasing him that he’s going to be 200 pounds when he comes back. I went to his house the other day. He got a new dog. Jeremy has grown to become one of my close friends.”

Cyprien improving

Bradley expressed optimism that Cyprien might be progressing toward playing in Sunday’s game against Tennessee at EverBank Field. Cyprien, the team’s second-round pick, missed last week’s 27-20 loss to Buffalo with a thigh injury.

“Johnathan Cyprien did pretty well with his return to play,” Bradley said. “He’s projected to practice tomorrow.”

Cyprien did not practice with the team, but did some running drills off to the side.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Cyprien said. “I started running more today. I was doing more football movements. Hopefully, I’ll be cleared to practice with the team tomorrow.”

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew did not practice, as expected. The team is going to evaluate Jones-Drew’s hamstring again before determining whether he’ll practice Friday.

Ball didn’t practice with a shoulder injury after being limited on Wednesday.

“Alan should be fine,” Bradley said. “It’s just more of a wear and tear thing and the grind of the season so we limited some of his activities today but he should be OK.”

Linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) and receiver Jeremy Ebert (ankle) also missed practice. Bradley said Ebert will likely miss Sunday’s game, but could return for the season finale at Indianapolis.

Bradley said receiver Cecil Shorts underwent sports hernia surgery Thursday morning to repair his groin injury. Shorts posted a message on his Twitter account Thursday afternoon saying the surgery went great.

Stopping Wright

The Jaguars secondary will go up against a 1,000-yard receiver on Sunday. Tennessee’s Kendall Wright hit the milestone last week, catching 12 passes for 150 yards in a loss to Arizona.

The second-year player has 85 receptions for 1,007 yards and two touchdowns. He is one of 17 players with at least 1,000 receiving yards this season.

Wright caught seven passes for 78 yards in a 29-27 loss to the Jaguars on Nov. 10.

“He’s their go-to guy,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. “He’s extremely shifty and he gets open and runs really good routes. They do a lot of catch-and-run with him, although they do hit him down the field, but a lot of shorter routes where he catches it and he runs and he gains yards.”

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