At the beginning of the off season, Cecil Shorts was challenged. Head coach Gus Bradley said he wanted to Shorts to dedicate himself to not only having the best season of his career (in the final year of his rookie contract) but to also act as a mentor to the younger wideouts that were in camp or had already made the Jaguars 53-man roster. Shorts took the “challenge” in stride, stepping up so far in camp, talking to rookies, setting an example and a bar to be met. He spent part of the team’s minicamp injured with a calf injury (like last season), but that did not stop him from making things better.
This season, Shorts is doing something else to improve his game, to not only help himself but his team. He, along with Mike Brown, are working at Larry Fitzgerald’s offseason camp at the University of Minnesota.
“This offers you an opportunity to get together with some of the top guys in the NFL,” Brown, a second-year veteran, said this week. It’s also an opportunity to prepare for training camp and the regular season at a time they otherwise would have trouble doing so. The Jaguars open training camp July 25, reporting for training camp the previous day. While players can be at EverBank Field individually before then, they can’t work out on the field with coaches present at EverBank until camp. But they can work on the field at the Fitzgerald Camp, a two-week session staged annually in Minneapolis by Fitzgerald, an All-Pro wide receiver the Arizona Cardinals.
“It’s just a really good group,” Shorts said. “We’re going hard and pushing each other.”
Brown said about 30 players are participating at Fitzgerald’s camp this week, including not only Fitzgerald, Shorts and Brown, but Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Washington Redskins wide receiver Andre Roberts, Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith.
Shorts was a fourth round out of Mt. Union IN 2011. He had been one of the bright spots in the final seasons of Gene Smith’s reign as team general manager. Now, he hopes a solid season and better skills will lead to big things not only for him but the Jaguars as well.
Said Shorts, “He (Fitzgerald) is all about Coach Sullivan. He talks about him 24-7.”
Shorts said that was evident this week when Fitzgerald ran a drill in which receivers worked on comeback route.
“It’s a tough route to run,” Shorts said. “He (Fitzgerald) said, ‘C, watch this route – make sure I’m doing it Sully’s way; make sure I’m dropping my weight; make sure I’m making the right turn.”
Shorts added with a laugh, “I ran a bad curl Wednesday and he (Fitzgerald) got on me, ‘What would Coach Sully say? He’d be on you.’ When a Hall of Famer receiver is hungry to learn from Coach Sullivan, that just solidifies what we’re doing. That’s huge.’’
Shorts said in addition to getting a couple of extra weeks of work, there is a simple, selfish reason he returns to Fitzgerald’s camp each summer.
“Just being around Larry, being around him,” Shorts said. “That’s the biggest thing for me, seeing how he deals with people, how he attacks his game, how he works on his craft. He’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s up here, willing to work with guys who are trying to get on teams, guys in college, guys fighting to get on teams. It says a lot about him. He’s a humble guy.