Byron Is Back: Leftwich Press Conference

QB BYRON LEFTWICH NEWS CONFERENCE - PASSING CAMP - TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2007

(on being your reaction on being named the starting quarterback)
"I always thought that there was really no reason for me to react because I always felt that way. It wasn't news to me. I felt as though when I was healthy that I would be the quarterback for this team. That is the way I felt. What happened this offseason with everybody having a chance to evaluate (the position), (the coaches) think I am the best option for this team to win. If not, I wouldn't be here. I understand that. I thought there was never a need to comment on it, because I always felt that way all the time."

(on winning the fans back)
"My whole motivation from Day One was to make sure I play 16 games. I don't care who you are, if you miss as many games as I did the last two years there are going to be doubters. People are going to question, can you do this or can you do that. That is the frustrating part of it. People start to question your ability when you are not out there. That's the difficult part when your game of football is being questioned. Instead of saying that you are injury prone, what is being questioned is if I can play. When I am out there I am going to win more than I am going to lose. I know that. That is the feeling that I have always got and that's what always happens when I am out there on a consistent basis. But I do understand how people feel, but that's coming from not being out there."

(do you feel injury prone?)
"No, I just feel like I had the same injury and I hurt it twice. It came down to that. I didn't make the right decision the first time I hurt it."

(when did you hurt the ankle?)
"I hurt it against Arizona."

(was there a correlation between the Arizona injury in 2005 to the Washington game in 2006?)
"The ankle, even from when I hurt it in college, over time had just gone as far as it could go. It had gone as far as it could go and if I could do it all over again, if I was educated enough, I probably would have had the surgery this time last year. That way what happened last year wouldn't have happened. Nothing showed that that problem would occur, but it did."

(how many games in 2006 did you play healthy?)
"I felt good up until the Monday after the Redskins game. The next day after the Redskins game, I remember getting up here on that Monday getting treatment and I don't really know what I did in that game. I remember it just got worse and worse as the days went by. It just began to act up more and more."

"In the postseason game against New England, I felt no pain. In the preseason, I felt no pain. After that Redskins game, I woke up the next morning in pain and that was the scary part. That Friday before the Houston game, I got up and just couldn't walk. I know some of the (media) think I was riding a bike or doing something else, but I woke up and just couldn't walk. It was surprising to me because that was the first time in my career that I was injured and I really didn't do anything. It was just over time, the ankle tried and tried and tried, but it just could do it anymore."

(on the status of your ankle today)
"I am totally recovered, no pain or anything with the ankle."

(did you think about pulling yourself out of that Houston game?)
"I felt as though I could still play. That is just the way I feel, that is the way I am wired, because I have done it before. I have felt as though I have been out on that field in worse situations than that. I have been out on the field where it was a constant pain and went out and played well. So that is my mindset. That is the way I think and I don't look at it as being stubborn. I was that way before I became a Jaguar, I was that way at Marshall and I was that way in high school. It's just the way I play football. I am always going to be like that."

(on any repair with your relationship with Jack Del Rio)
"When you look at the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish here in winning football games, does it really matter? I don't think it really matters. That is a question that everyone wants to talk about time in and time out. I know I am going to do all I can to win football games and he is going to do all he can to coach us up and make sure we win football games. So that question to me is really not relevant to what we are trying to accomplish as a team."

(on the fans wanting to know about your future in Jacksonville)
"My philosophy doesn't matter what year it is. I love being here in Jacksonville and love being a Jaguar, but at the same time, we are trying to win football games. I know my priority is to make sure I am out there every game we play. I feel that if I am out there in every game, we will have success."

(on your contract ending after the 2006 season)
"I can't worry about that right now. I can't look into the future. I love being here. I love being a Jaguar and I'm not saying the relationship is bad or good, I'm just saying in the big picture, it's not really relevant to what we are trying to do as a team."

(was there a point where you thought you might not be back with the team?)
"There was a point where I knew if I was healthy that I would be back here. I know that. It really wasn't my decision to make. It was really up to the Jaguars if they wanted me to be here or not. They went through their evaluation process and they felt as though I was the best guy to win ball games. If they didn't think that, I wouldn't be here. They watched when I was on the field and when everyone else was on the field and they said the guy to give us the best chance to win is (me). That is the decision that they came up with. I know I can play this game. I just have to do something to train my body to do everything I can to make sure I am out there. I don't care who you are, if you aren't out there playing, your ability can easily be questioned and that is the situation I am in now. So my job is to make sure I am out there."

(on working out in South Florida)
"What people don't realize is that I have seen all my teammates a lot. I just haven't seen them in the weight room. I don't really see them anyways because everyone lifts at different times. Everyone made a big deal about that, but I knew I would be here when the football started. I knew for me to do the best thing for this team and for me, I have to be out there on the football field. The only thing I knew was to go with the guy that got me in the best shape of my life when I came out of college. I just told him to get me back into shape and that's what we have done from Day One."

(what is your weight now?)
"About 247. I have never been 267, that's JaMarcus (Russell).

(did you expect to be traded?)
"I expected the unexpected. I expected the worst and the best. I was going to make sure I was prepared for everything. I understood the situation I was in and it was a tough situation for me to deal with. At the same time I know how this business is and how the NFL is. If you are not out there doing what you are supposed to do as a player, that is the quickest way off someone's roster and out of the league. I knew when I got healthy that I could play this game of football."

(what are you doing to keep yourself healthy?)
"Unfortunately it has been only one injury that has kept me off the field. I am doing everything possible. I am rehabbing this ankle all day and it feels good. Now I am rehabbing this ankle to keep it as strong as I can and making sure I can stay on it throughout the year. I am doing things to prevent this from happening again. Right now the ankles the best it's been in three years."

(do you want to stay in Jacksonville as the starting quarterback?)
"I would love that, but that's not my decision."

(have they approached you on a contract extension?)
"No they haven't. Why would they talk to me about extensions when I can't stay out on the field? If you look at it that way, it wouldn't be smart about it on their part. Right now what I have to do is, I know there's a year on my contract, so what I'm going to do is I'm going to focus on this year and everything else will take care of itself. My whole focus is about nothing else but being on that field and making sure I play 16 games. If I do that, we will be successful like we should be."

(on Leftwich's relationship with Coach Del Rio)
"I don't call Jack and say ‘hey man, meet me at the bar and let's have a drink.' I don't do that because we're not that close but at the same time I respect him as a head coach and I'm quite sure he respects me as a player. Everybody wants to get into this thing because everybody wants to see how I feel about that, and I feel the same way I always felt about it. I don't want to make it a distraction and what I mean by that, I'm not saying that it's bad but my thinking is that question is totally irrelevant to what we're trying to do."

(is there something that has to improve in your situation here other than just winning games that needs to happen in order for you to feel like Jacksonville is your first choice long term?)
"No, and that's my thing. Nothing special has to happen to win me back. I'm here. Nothing special has to happen. Like I said, I love being a Jaguar. I love those players in that locker room. I love being in that locker room. I can't say that any more. I think my relationship with Jack, I wouldn't call it bad and I wouldn't call it good. It's a relationship. We're at where we're at but it doesn't mean that I don't like the guy because I respect the guy too much and what he's doing and I can only worry about that one year I have on my contract and if I go out there and play my tail off, that'll take care of itself. Like I said, I like being here. I like the players in that locker room, so I can't begin to get my focus on something else. That's what I'm trying not to do. I'm trying not to get my focus on things that don't really matter. I'm worried about what I can control and what I can control is going out there and trying to be in the best shape and play the best football that I can play."

(so you have the same type of sincerity for the community of Jacksonville?)
"Yeah I do. For some reason, people have this perception that ‘he's not here…he's training in Miami…maybe he doesn't like being here.' Instead of people thinking ‘he's working his tail off to make sure he can help us win football games.' It's a negative perception and I can't control that. I know what I'm doing is the best thing for me and the best thing for the Jaguars."

(on the perception that you have not connected with the city)
"I like being here."

(on Coach Dirk Koetter and the new offense)
"I like Coach (Dirk) Koetter's philosophy because it sends me back to my Marshall (University) days. He's always on attack mode. I think he's a blessing in disguise for me because it's a situation where he thinks the way I think. Me and him would just talk football. We sat in here for a few days and just talked football and I'm like ‘man, that sounds like my guy that was Marshall' because he wanted to score points and what I mean by that, if the defense makes a mistake, let's make them pay for it every single time. And if we score 60 (points), we score 60, and that's his mindset. When you have a guy who is going to be that aggressive and going to attack the way you like to attack, as a quarterback there is nothing more than you can ask for than that."

(how much did you communicate with Coach Koetter while training in Miami?)
"I have regular communication with Coach Koetter. I wasn't lost today. I wanted to make sure of that. I wanted to make sure that when I got out there, I wasn't lost. I talked to Coach Koetter all the time and we're always talking football. He's always checking on me seeing how I'm doing. If I have questions, if he has questions, we call each other up and we always talk."

(do you think improving the passing game will get this team over the hump or is that too much pressure?)
"No, that's not putting too much pressure on nothing. I really do believe if we go out there and all of our guys…people don't realize, a lot of guys got hurt and I think what really hurt was is when Matt (Jones) hurt his hamstring. Those first few games, we were playing good football. When Matt hurt his hamstring, that kind messed up our rotation and then I went down. When you lose guys, you lose guys and things are going to hurt and lucky for us, we were able to be the No. 2 rushing offense in this league. The good thing is when you can sit back and look at it now and say ‘hey, if we're number two in rushing, there's no way in heck that we should be 24 in passing ever again' because if you have a running game that good, that have to open up lanes for us to throw the football. And so, that's what makes it so exciting as a quarterback and as a wide receiver because everybody knows we were ranked second in rushing last year. So what is everybody going to do? They're going to throw eight or nine people in the box and we're going to be smiling because we're going to have that philosophy that we're going to attack people down the field."

(when did you first connect with your current trainer?)
"When I first came out, he trained me. He's the guy that got me ready for the Combine and everything. The guy is just so smart. It's one on one and the best thing about it is I'm doing quarterback stuff. When you work together as a group like that, as a big group, one day I might be lifting weights with Marcus Stroud. I don't need to be doing the same thing as Marcus Stroud. I'm not in a three technique. I need to do quarterback specific stuff. He has a game plan for me so when I'm there, it's all about me. Everything I'm doing is about getting better as a quarterback and I like that a lot and that's why I went down there because something was going wrong with me staying unhealthy all the time and maybe it was just something in my mind because Coach (Mark) Asanovich had nothing to do with my ankle. So I'm not saying what Coach Asanovich is doing is wrong or bad. I just thought the best thing for me personally to get in the best shape, I needed to go see Pete."

(how did you originally meet up with your trainer?)
"When I was with IMG, he was the guy who trained people, and then when Freddy (Taylor) asked me ‘what's up with Pete?', I said ‘go, I promise you…' and you all saw what Fred did last year. He's the best trainer that I've been around. I haven't been around a lot but he's the best one I've been around."

(what is your reaction to the team not drafting a quarterback?)
"I wouldn't say it send a message to me because that was already relayed to me before the draft. When the pick came up, I said ‘oh shucks. This is going to get crazy' because I know what everyone's thinking. It was a situation in my mind of ‘when I'm healthy, I can play.' That's the way I feel. If they had made that decision, they would have made that decision and there was nothing I could do about that and that's why I wasn't worried about what I could control. I worry about what I can control so I know when I'm healthy, I'll be out there."

(if you have a good year, will you want to start talking contract re-negations?)
"No issue will be pressed because I'm not the type of guy that's going to really talk a lot about contracts. I'm not going to go to somebody and talk contract in the middle of the season because our ultimate goal is to get in the playoffs and win the championship, and I think that takes your mind off it. There's a time to handle that and I don't think that time is September, October, November or December."

(is there anything else that you feel like you need to do to stay healthy on the field?)
"I think I can get better as far as technique-wise, as far as footwork and things like that, but as far as my throwing motion, there aren't a lot of people that ever wanted me to change it. I'm not saying mine's the best, but there are guys out there way worse than me and throwing the football is throwing the football. I can't change that. I've been doing that for 27 years. People say I have the long wind-up and it gets there longer. Mine gets there faster though than everybody else's, so it evens out, if everybody wants to use that as an excuse. I'm just so tired of the negative stuff that goes on. I just want to play some football and have a great year and win some football games and see what happens from there."

(in your mind, where does the negativity come from?)
"I think it might be the fan base reacting to the media because when you play quarterback in this league… I know enough quarterbacks around the league, I used to think like ‘man, this is crazy. I've never been a part of anything like this.' But when I talk to more quarterbacks around the league, they're saying the same thing. It's no matter how good they are. You're going to have fans who like you, you're going to have fans who love you and you're going to have fans who hate you, and what you do as a player is try to work your butt off and hope they respect that and hope they respect that I'm going to do everything I can, put everything on the line to try to win this football game. If that doesn't win them over, you can't really control that. All you can do is play your butt off week in and week out and let them ultimately make the decision if they want to like you or not."

(do you think the fan base is behind you?)
"What people fail to realize, I think there are more people here that like me than don't. I really do believe that because I really do believe that they understand the passion that I have for this game and I'm not just out there just trying to skate by day in and day out, game in and game out. I'm giving them everything I have and if you can't respect a guy who is going to go out there and give you everything you have, maybe you should check yourself. I'm going to give them everything I have week in and week out. That's all I can do. I promise I will always be prepared. I will play my tail of for the Jaguars, for the city, for everybody. I'm going to go out there and play my tail off to the best of my ability that day and what that holds, I can't really control everything so I have to stop worrying about everything."

(on working with some of the new players)
"I've been in Jacksonville some days and I got some work in with my guys. I understand it is important to work in with your guys and we've done that. I just didn't see there was a reason to publicize it and let everybody know "I'm in Jacksonville; I'll be throwing at 10 o'clock on Thursday, come on down.' I didn't feel as though I needed to do that. I know what I have to do because I know the worse thing that can happen for me is to have something happen to me and then boom, and they'll say ‘that guy is a bum; he can't do anything', and I know that. And I know if I'm on that field, people will stop questioning my ability to play the game of football. So I'm going to worry about what I need to do and what I need to do is make sure I'm out there on that field."

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