Ankle-gate took another turn on Saturday when the Jaguars announced that Quarterback Byron Leftwich would have surgery on his injured ankle and would return when his recovery was complete. Very unusual to make any kind of announcement on a Saturday and certainly not one a major as the quarterback was out indefinitely.
If you remember, the first we heard about the ankle was when Byron turned up on the injury report out of the blue. “You know when you wake up with a ‘crick’ in your neck,” Head Coach Jack Del Rio said when originally asked about it. “That’s the same thing here but with the ankle.”
He played against Houston and was fairly ineffective in a 27-7 loss. Did the ankle play a role? “It didn’t have anything to do with it,” Leftwich assured us after the game. “I don’t believe it was a factor,” Del Rio echoed in his Monday press conference. “Have you looked at the tape,” was the collective response from the assembled media.
To his credit, Del Rio came back on Wednesday and said the ankle was a factor and that Leftwich and David Garrard would split snaps in practice. Leftwich wasn’t happy and let everybody know through his body language and his locker room demeanor. “I was actually hurt in the Redskins game,” Leftwich revealed the next day. That was news to Del Rio who was clearly miffed when Leftwich changed his story.
On Thursday the media was in the locker room when Leftwich dropped his “I don’t know, but it’s not me” comment when asked about the starting QB situation. “Nobody’s said anything to me,” Garrard said. I asked to speak with Del Rio but was told he was “unavailable.” Very strange. So Garrard was named the starter and promptly played an efficient game against the Eagles and won.
“I’ve played on worse,” Byron kept up the patter and the pressure to get back in the lineup when asked about the ankle.
All of this was against the backdrop of rumors that Leftwich was taking pain pills just to get through practice and wasn’t telling anyone. Garrard started again, and won against Tennessee. Leftwich headed to Birmingham to see the famed Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews clinic, apparently hoping a second opinion on his ankle would force the Jaguars hand and have him back on the field soon. Andrews gave him the opposite diagnosis, saying he had to rest the ankle and get re-evaluated the following week.
And that surgery was an option.
Del Rio confirmed all of that in his weekly press conference, but when asked about it in the locker room, Leftwich gave a terse “I’m not talking about it” response.
Then the announcement that Leftwich would have surgery this coming Tuesday. I know Byron’s ‘upset because he wanted to play all the time this year, be successful and signed a new contract extension. Without him in the lineup the Jaguars can make some decisions about the QB position into the future.
Is Leftwich done as a quarterback for the Jaguars after 08?
Is Garrard the guy of the future?
None of it has been clear and none is coming into focus any time soon.