Jaguars Rookies Adjusting to Life in the NFL

Gratz minicamp
Jaguars rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz (27) is one of six rookies who could start for the Jaguars in 2013. (photo by: AP)

by Cole Pepper

Six weeks have passed since draft weekend, but for rookies all around the NFL, it’s been a crash course in pro football.

Several of the Jaguars rookies I spoke with at the team’s mini-camp this week talked about a number of similar themes: the speed of the game, the opportunity to focus just on football and the attempt to realize their dreams of making and NFL team.

Make no mistake, some of the high draft picks are all but assured a roster spot. Some, like second overall pick Luke Joeckel, second round pick Jonathan Cyprien and third round corner Dwayne Gratz have been working with the first team. Others, are just hoping to earn a spot on the roster, or even the practice squad.

Perhaps the most compelling Jaguars rookie is former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. He has more to learn than any of the rookies as he makes the move to running back.

“I have to learn the offense and learn to be a running back first,” Robinson said. “How to do the right things like a running back, how to run routes, make sure I know how to get to the blocks, get to  the linebackers. I just have to be a sponge right now.”

Denard Robinson mini-camp
Denard Robinson is adjusting to life as a running back. The college quarterback could be the Jaguars starting kickoff returner come opening day. For now, he’s learning how to approach the game from a new position.

Robinson can turn to veterans Maurice Jones-Drew or Justin Forsett for guidance, but with Jones-Drew not working out with the team full-time and Forsett new to the Jaguars, he is also leaning on fellow Michigan alum Chad Henne for help.

“I’m trying to get with Chad and go somewhere with him (this off-season) so I can get better at catching the ball and learning the offense,” Robinson said.

Cornerback Dwayne Gratz (pronounced Grahts) has a veteran at his position to turn to. But Marcus Trufant can be even more valuable to the rookie because Trufant was signed as a free agent from Seattle, where he played in Gus Bradley’s defense.

“He just talked to me and said that as a young player in the NFL, he thought he had to make every play,” Gratz said. “He said just relax and feel comfortable. There are going to be plays where they’re catching the ball on you. You just have to forget that.”

Fullback Lonnie Pryor is also adjusting. He told me that he has to put on at least five pounds of muscle to be better as a fullback. He’s also spending lots of time in the classroom learning the offense.

“It’s kind of like a job now,” Pryor said. “In college, you have to worry about school, but now, I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”


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