JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — David Garrard’s back has been relatively pain free this week. No swelling, no tightness, no problems walking, sitting or getting out of bed.
Jacksonville’s starting quarterback has practiced five consecutive days and he threw some of his best passes of training camp during Wednesday’s joint session with Atlanta.
The real test comes tonight. Garrard will make his preseason debut when the Jaguars host the Falcons. He hasn’t been hit since tweaking his back two weeks ago, but he knows his response to full contact will determine how close he is to 100 percent for the regular season.
Garrard also hopes to keep his job.
With rookie Blaine Gabbert showing poise, pocket presence, arm strength and decision-making ability, Jacksonville’s quarterback competition has become tighter than many expected.
The NFL lockout negated chances for Gabbert to work on the field and in meeting rooms, but the 10th overall draft pick has caught up in a hurry.
The Falcons will be without defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee), cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring), center Todd McClure (rest) and newly signed tight end Reggie Kelly.
Atlanta and Jacksonville held a joint practice Wednesday night, the second consecutive year the teams have shared practice fields. The Jaguars traveled to Flowery Branch, Ga., last August for four joint on-field sessions. This time, the Falcons came south, but because of new camp rules in the collective bargaining agreement, the teams shared just a single, two-hour workout.
“It’s good for the morale of the guys,” Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson said. “We tend to pull together a little more. It changes up camp and you get out of that old rut of doing things over and over and over. It’s good for camp.”
It also means the Jaguars and Falcons will practice together, play each other in an exhibition game and meet again in December in the regular season.
“I don’t think that happens a whole lot where you actually play in the preseason and play in the regular season,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said.
“So we’ll know each other.”