JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are unlikely to allow recently retired offensive tackle Branden Albert to return to the team, which is the correct way to handle what has become a bizarre — and somewhat confusing — situation.
Albert doesn’t help the Jaguars much, if at all, on the field. During the only three training camp practices in which he participated, he looked nothing like a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle. He didn’t move well, had trouble in one-on-one pass-rush drills and seemed to be really bothered by the heat and humidity despite spending the past three seasons in Miami.
Cam Robinson, the Jaguars’ second-round pick (34th overall) appeared to be the better player and almost certainly would have won the starting job anyway. Albert would have been relegated to a backup swing tackle or maybe even moved inside to guard.
But the bigger reason for not allowing Albert to return goes to the culture and atmosphere that executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone are trying to establish. They are trying to inject more discipline and accountability into a franchise that has won only 17 games over the past five seasons. Allowing Albert to return wouldn’t fit that.
Albert skipped the Jaguars’ entire offseason conditioning program and organized team activities, which was his right under the collective bargaining agreement because they are voluntary workouts. As a nine-year veteran he certainly knows how to get his body in shape and prepare for a season, and he did participate in the mandatory three-day minicamp in mid-June and reported for training camp with the rest of the veterans.
But after only three practices in four days Albert abruptly decided to retire. That was just before the hardest stretch of what Marrone promised to be the most physical training camp the franchise has seen since Coughlin’s first tenure here ended in 2002. The Jaguars went five consecutive days in full pads last week (six out of seven days because the first day in full pads came before the players’ first day off), which is rare in today’s NFL.
That was designed to hopefully begin to instill some of the toughness that Coughlin and Marrone said was missing from the team the past several seasons. It might not have been as grueling as Marrone would have liked because temperatures rarely topped 90 degrees — a rarity for August — but it was still a brutal week, and the team had its most physical practice of camp last Thursday.
Albert missed it all after walking into Marrone’s office last Monday morning to announce his retirement. He was gone from the facility before lunch, which meant he spent a total of seven days with his teammates: three days of minicamp and four days of camp, including an off day.
Letting Albert return now, when the grind of camp becomes more manageable now that preseason games are beginning, certainly wouldn’t fit the Jaguars’ mantra of accountability and discipline. Can’t imagine his teammates, who slogged through the past week while he was off, would be very welcoming, either.
Not to mention that it’s also bad optics for a franchise that, quite frankly, has been one of the league’s worst over the past decade. They’ve had a top-five draft pick for an NFL-record six consecutive years, they’ve lost 11 or more games in each of the past six seasons, and they haven’t had a winning record since 2007.
A player near the end of his career with declining skills and a recent battle with injuries at one of the most critical positions on offense retires for a week then re-joins a team that can’t get out of its own way? It’s the Jaguars? OK, that fits.
The Jaguars should tell Albert no thanks and move forward. They’ve already gotten back the seventh-round draft pick they sent to Miami for Albert in March. Don’t further compound the mistake of trading for him in the first place.