Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Excitement Palpable in Opening Road Test; Bills Handled Jags at Alltel Last Year. Can Jaguars Turn the Tables?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Excitement Palpable in Opening Road Test; Bills Handled Jags at Alltel Last Year. Can Jaguars Turn the Tables?

Article excerpt

Byline: VITO STELLINO, The Times-Union

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Even for veterans like Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor, there's always something special about the beginning of a new season.

After months of offseason workouts, mini-camps, training camp and preseason games, the Jaguars start playing for real today when they open their 10th season against the Buffalo Bills.

Smith, the last remaining Jaguar on the original team in 1995 and one of four on their last playoff team in 1999, knows what it'll feel like moments before the opening kickoff.

"If you're a player and you don't get anxious and don't have butterflies, something is wrong,'' Smith said. "I think every player in the league is going to have some type of butterflies."

Added Taylor: "You've got to be pumped. If not, you're in the wrong sport, you're playing the wrong game."

It's an old coaching bromide that Sunday is Fun Day and the Jaguars can't wait to start having fun. Second-year quarterback Byron Leftwich said he feels that way.

"I love this week,'' he said. "You get to prepare for a team, which we didn't do all preseason. That's the fun part about playing football. You prepare during the week and then on Sunday, you grade yourself on how well you prepared during the week."

After struggling through four consecutive losing seasons, including the first year of the Jack Del Rio regime, the Jaguars see better days ahead.

"We expect to be a good football team,'' Del Rio said. "Our number one goal is to make the playoffs. You don't make it in one day. You don't make it in one game. Our approach is not to concentrate on the goal, but concentrate on the task at hand."

Del Rio doesn't want his team to avoid highs and lows and wins and losses. It's a message the Jaguars coach has to remind himself because he says he takes losing very hard.

"I am emotional," he said. …

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