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Clemons’ status a mystery as Jaguars open practice

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars escaped making any controversial news during the offseason, but it took only one day for things to change once the team reported for training camp.

First, veteran defensive end Chris Clemons was the only one of 90 Jaguars players who failed to report on Thursday, the reporting day for all veterans.

Clemons was a no-show during organized team activities as well, and coach Gus Bradley wasn’t pleased that the 12-year veteran wouldn’t be in uniform and on the field with his teammates when camp started.

“This one is a little concerning,” Bradley said. “Hopefully we come up with a decision to speed things up a little bit quicker. I don’t see this as a situation that’s extended.”

Bradley seemed to be accurate in his assessment when Clemons did arrive at the facility Friday morning, the first day of practice. But he wasn’t dressed when the team took the field at 10 a.m. to practice in front of nearly 2,000 season-ticket holders. As a result, the Jaguars placed Clemons on the active/non-football injury list. Bradley would not reveal the nature of the injury.

Nor was the Jaguars’ third-year coach able to give a timetable for Clemons’ return to the field.

“I wouldn’t put any timetable to it,” Bradley said. “He’s working out with guys now, with (trainer Scott Trulock) and with (strength and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski), but it’s good to see him back here.”

Instead, Bradley called Clemons’ status “a challenging situation.”

If the Jaguars’ No. 1 draft pick, pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., had not suffered a torn left ACL during the offseason, Clemons’ absence might have been a non-story.

Fowler was selected in order to take over the Leo defensive end spot and push Clemons into a backup role. But, with Fowler out until the 2016 season, Clemons’ value has heightened. Behind Clemons are Andre Branch, whose rookie contract expires after this season, and unproven Chris Smith, who played in just seven games as a rookie a year ago. In fact, Smith projects as the 11th-best defensive lineman for a unit that may include just 10 players.

Bradley admitted that placing Clemons on the non-football injury list was something that the team had not envisioned doing.

“This kind of came up at the end here. The injury thing we knew in talking to him over the past couple of days that it could be a strong possibility,” the Jaguars’ coach said.

Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said the defensive unit takes a real hit without Clemons in the lineup.

“We want him here. Obviously he’s a huge part of our defense,” Posluszny said. “He really makes things go on that defensive line, and he’s a big part of our pass rush. He’s a great teammate to have around, a veteran presence (with a lot of) leadership. He’s been on outstanding defenses before, so we want him here. Whatever we need to do to get him here, we’ll try.”

Does it change the dynamic of the defense?

“If he’s not here, yes,” Posluszny said. “That changes things for us because that’s taking a starter out of the rotation. It’s not good. We definitely need him here.”

If there’s a silver lining to the situation, it would be that Clemons is a veteran who has played in Bradley’s defensive scheme both in Jacksonville and Seattle. So there is little concern about his knowledge of the defensive concepts. Conditioning has never been a concern for Clemons. He has missed just two games in the last eight years and has started all but five games during that span.

But the Jaguars need Clemons’ presence on the field and in the locker room. He’s a team leader; and, with so many young players on the team, Clemons’ experience and knowledge can be passed along to others. Depending on the nature of the injury, Clemons is needed back on the field as soon as possible.


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