EAGAN, Minn. – As the most senior leader of the Jaguars' defense, Calais Campbell's words carry significant weight. And when the veteran defensive end, who is entering his 11th season in the National Football League said the Jaguars' first-round draft pick Taven Bryan is "the best rookie I've had," it was high praise.
I asked Campbell what he had seen from Bryan in camp, just minutes after the former Gator practiced for the first time in over a week. Here's what Campbell said:
"I love it. He is the best rookie I have had in my career, which is a big statement," Campbell said. "Some guys might get upset about that. He really has done everything that we have asked of him. He has done it with a smile on his face and he is just a good guy to be around."
When healthy, Bryan has been spending most of his time backing up Campbell. Both players missed the Jaguars' preseason opener. Campbell expects to be on the field Saturday when Jacksonville faces the Vikings. Bryan could also see some limited action, although he could be held back as a precaution.
Either way, Campbell was just happy to see the rookie back on the field Thursday.
"I want to say welcome back! It has been too long," Campbell said. "Somebody has to get those reps, so the young guys, they usually get a lot of reps. It is fun when you get to tease him for being out and making it hard for other people. We gave him a hard time. He came back today with a big smile on his face and excited to make plays. He flew around, had some fun today. I have to watch the tape to really see how he did, but it is always good to have him out there."
It's not uncommon for rookies, especially first-round picks, to show some bravado in their first camps as they adjust to a new reality. Most high draft picks were the best players on their teams in college and have to adapt to life as a professional. That can cause some bumps in the road. That has not been the case with Bryan.
"Most guys give you a little bit of attitude, just some kick back," Campbell said. "He came in with the mentality that he wants to soak up knowledge and he wants to get better every day. He wants to be dependable, and he is showing us that we can depend on him.”
Doug Marrone would also like to be able to depend on Bryan. He wants to see the rookie show his abilities, but that has to start with one in particular.
"One can be availability when he gets in there and starts practicing. That would help," Marrone said. "Obviously, we are looking for him to do good things for us.”