The Jacksonville Jaguars could be sitting on season-changing medical results.
A left knee injury suffered by quarterback Byron Leftwich in Sunday's loss to Houston has been found to be more serious than originally thought. But in an interview with the Associated Press, head coach Jack Del Rio refuted reports that Leftwich could miss as much as six weeks with a sprained lateral collateral ligament.
Two Jacksonville players contacted by Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night said they were not given any certain indications Leftwich would miss games after the Jaguars' bye this week. The Jaguars' next game is Nov. 14 against Detroit, and Del Rio told the Associated Press that Leftwich would be evaluated again next Monday after resting his knee the remainder of this week.
Whatever the case, the Jaguars would clearly be in trouble if the injury caused Leftwich to miss time.
While the team feels backup David Garrard is capable in short stints, he has thrown only 60 regular-season passes in three seasons. The 6-foot-1, 244 pound Garrard has a strong arm and good mobility, but he also has displayed erratic patience in the pocket in preseason games and suffers from bouts of inaccuracy.
The most troubling aspects of Leftwich's sprained knee are two-fold. First, it's his third injury this season, following a sprained shoulder and sprained ankle, and it revives questions about whether Leftwich can be durable from season to season.
In college, Leftwich had to have a metal rod inserted in his leg to aid a shin fracture before his senior year. He later re-injured the leg in a game against Akron, a win that became famous for the image of Leftwich's linemen carrying him downfield after he returned to action.
It's that fortitude which raises the second problem for Jacksonville.
In only his second year, Leftwich has become the team's unquestioned leader, having been lauded for his pain tolerance and cool demeanor. He has led Jacksonville on four game-winning drives late in the fourth quarter this season and had made the largest strides of his career over the last month. Now, that vital progress could be interrupted.
- Jack Del Rio