With a quarterback controversy brewing and their star receiver returning to the lineup, the Jacksonville Jaguars look to earn their first win of the season as they face another winless team, the San Diego Chargers.
Leftwich was 17-for-36 for 231 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in the Jaguars’ 24-20 loss to the Houston Texans. He hooked up with Troy Edwards on an 84-yard touchdown pass, the longest scoring play in team history and the longest play in the league this season.
Coach Jack Del Rio announced Thursday that Leftwich would start against the Chargers, after the rookie took the majority of the snaps with the first team for the second straight day. Brunell didn’t take any.
“The injury plays into it a little bit,” Del Rio said. “And I feel like this is our best option to help us win.”
The left-handed Brunell is listed as questionable for Sunday with a cut on his left elbow. He said the elbow is fine, however, and he looked good throwing in individual drills early in practice.
“It’s better than yesterday,” said Brunell, who wore a small bandage on the elbow. “No problems whatsoever.”
In the week leading up to the Houston game, Del Rio had promised Brunell the start if he was healthy. However, with the team off to its worst start since its 1995 expansion season and Brunell likely to leave after the season, giving Leftwich game experience is starting to make more and more sense.
Brunell said after Wednesday’s practice he would be healthy in time for Sunday’s game.
“That will be real difficult—feeling physically ready to roll and not being able to,” Brunell said. “That would be a hard one, particularly since we need a win so bad.”
Making the Jaguars’ week even more interesting was the return of Jimmy Smith, who served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
The five-time Pro Bowler, who spent six weeks in rehab in South Carolina, will was activated Friday and will be back in Jacksonville’s lineup as Del Rio tries to jump-start his stagnant offense.
“The staff, the organization, the players, we’ve all been looking forward to this,” Del Rio said. “We’ve been supportive of what he’s gone through. We’re glad to have him back and we look forward to good times on Sundays with him.”
The Chargers are coming off Sunday’s 34-31 overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders—their eighth straight defeat dating to last season.
LaDainian Tomlinson, who leads the league in receptions by a running back with 25 and ranks fourth in yards from scrimmage (548), rushed for 187 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown run, and even threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Drew Brees.
However, San Diego’s defense blew a 14-point lead late in regulation.
“When you get as many points as we had, when you get as many yards as we had, I’d like to think that we’d find a way to win,” said San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose team had scored just 37 points in its first three games. “We all devote so much time and effort to it, (so) you’re disappointed when you don’t finish the job.”
The Chargers played Sunday without receiver David Boston, who was suspended for a game by Schottenheimer for repeatedly breaking team rules.
Boston, whose $47 million contract is the largest in team history, returned to practice Monday and gave an apologetic statement to reporters, but not to his teammates. However, the Chargers didn’t seem concerned that he chose not to address them.
“I think frankly, David will in his own way make his way with his teammates,” Schottenheimer said. “He didn’t feel like he was real comfortable doing that and I certainly wasn’t going to insist that it be done.”
The Chargers should have their top two receivers back for this game.
Boston went through another practice Thursday with no setbacks. Before being suspended, he had been slowed by a bruised heel.
Also, fellow receiver Tim Dwight, who missed last week’s game with a strained knee, also practiced for the second straight day.