Jacksonville Jaguars players more 'focused' than relieved about the firing of Urban Meyer

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Jihad Ward was literally standing on his head – several times.

There seemed to be more smiles and more genuine laughter.

And nearby, the sound system blasted songs such as “Wins & Losses” by Meek Mill and “New Level” by A$AP Ferg.

Take that playlist any way you want.

Even Oregon country boy Ben Bartch started busting moves in the flex line.

The Jacksonville Jaguars' practice on Thursday, nearly 12 hours after former coach Urban Meyer was fired, was very much like a release of emotion, at least for the 20 minutes the media was allowed to watch.

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Jaguars defensive end Jihad Ward (6) dances in front of teammates Doug Costin (58), Taven Bryan (93) and Jay Tufele (97) while at Thursday's practice.
Jaguars defensive end Jihad Ward (6) dances in front of teammates Doug Costin (58), Taven Bryan (93) and Jay Tufele (97) while at Thursday's practice.

Players looked and sounded enthusiastic walking from the locker room to the field, words of kidding and encouragement were heard and sprints and drills were conducted in a crisp, precise manner in their first workout under interim coach Darrell Bevell, three days before the Jaguars play host to the Houston Texans on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) in a battle of the AFC South’s two 2-11 teams.

Indeed, when the team began running sprints, Ward, who was in the fourth line, quickly ran so fast he passed the other three lines to the finish.

He then grabbed two handfuls of ice from a cooler and smashed them on his helmet.

It was silly. It was childlike. It was a breath of fresh air.

Was it a sense of relief after a season filled with drama culminating with Meyer’s sacking by owner Shad Khan just after midnight?

“Relief is the wrong word,” said veteran cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who addressed the media along with quarterback Trevor Lawrence. “I think focus is the right one. I feel like there’s been a lot going on around the locker room, trying to figure out what’s going on in the field, trying to make changes. It [Thursday’s practice] was amazing to see. We needed that.”

Jaguars interim head coach Darrell Bevell talks to Shaquill Griffin (26) while leading practice on Thursday.
Jaguars interim head coach Darrell Bevell talks to Shaquill Griffin (26) while leading practice on Thursday.

One thing was missing: an assistant coach on a microphone, urging players to hydrate or what station to go to for drills. Whistles and a simple direction from a coach, “over here,” seemed enough.

But one Meyer tradition remained: coaches walked up and down between the lines of players stretching and flexing. The handshakes and hugs looked more heartfelt than perfunctory, and many lingered for more than a few seconds.

“I think the routines are very important for these guys,” said Bevell, who had been the offensive coordinator and will continue calling plays for the time being. “All I can do is be me … I’m going to try to be that same person each and every day.”

Trevor Lawrence reacts to Urban Meyer firing

Those were no doubt soothing words for Lawrence to hear. On Wednesday he said in response to a question about the drama swirling around Meyer, especially in the last two weeks, that a change had to be made.

“That’s something we need to work on, for sure,” Lawrence said. “You can’t always be in the headlines. You just have to go play football. That’s where we’re trying to get.”

A day later, Lawrence said firing Meyer can bring the team’s mindset around to the weekly task at hand in the NFL: winning games.

“It brings a little bit of clarity and some direction moving forward,” he said. “We really want to go and finish the season strong and to be honest, it’s been hard the last week with everything going on. It’s hard to be focused and have all your attention and efforts going towards winning the game when there’s so many things going on … we can just go be our best moving forward for the next four weeks.”

Both players praised Bevell for having the right personality to see this current crisis through.

“He’s very even-keel, always the same person never gets too high or too low,” Lawrence said of Bevell.

Griffin, who was with Seattle when Bevell was the offensive coordinator from 2011-17, said “I got a ton of respect for that guy … a lot of trust.”

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Trevor Lawrence, Shaquill Griffin react to Urban Meyer firing