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Jaguars' Lewis happy with life - just not with franchise tag

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Posted June 16, 2011 @ 11:49 a.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Like the other 2,000 or so NFL players hoping and praying that the recent swell of optimism in the labor talks is accurate, Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis hopes the good times can roll again soon.

The difference that is that he's just not lapping up the recent chatter and taking it as gospel.

"Lies are truth, and truth are lies," Lewis said by telephone this week from his offseason home outside Los Angeles. "Anyone who says more than 'I don't know' doesn't know (what's going on in the labor talks)."

Short of invoking Macbeth's witches, all Lewis will say is that he'll believe it when he sees it. Lewis is a man of actions, not words, and as he waits for something final in the CBA talks he also waits to find out his own future.

The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on him right before the NFL shut its doors for business and following Lewis' finest season in his five-year career. He set career highs in receptions (58) and yards (700) and had more touchdowns (10) than he had in his previous four seasons combined (seven). Throw in the blocking of the 6-6, 275-pound Lewis, who is only a few bagels short of being a right tackle, and you have a fairly complete player.   Lewis understands why the Jaguars franchised him. It doesn't mean he has to be tickled about the idea.

"It's a catch-22, man," he said. "I want a long-term contract, and I know Jacksonville wants me there. I love playing in Jacksonville and who I work with there. But at the same time, who wants to play under a one-year contract? That's not cool.

"Especially when you have played five years and given your sweat, blood and tears to the team and laid it out there every Sunday, putting your body on the line. Obviously, it is what it is. I am just sitting here, being patient and trusting that we are going to get it done."

He has no reason to think it won't. But the fact that the NFL has been out of commission since March 11 hasn't helped his chances of getting that long-term deal done anytime soon, either. Assuming the lockout ends and there are a few weeks of free agency prior to training camps, will there be enough time for Lewis to get his contract? After all, Jaguars GM Gene Smith will be busy trying to cram in months of work — trades, signings, undrafted-player signings and signing draft picks to contracts — in a very short time. Assuming the franchise tag is a part of the new CBA, the Jaguars could roll the dice, keep things status quo and hope Lewis will play on that one-year tender.  

Lewis wouldn't say whether he would do that or not, but he says he believes things will work out.

"Jacksonville knows what (it) has in me and what kind of guy I am, my character," he said. "They know I am going to give it every day. In the meantime, I just work hard and keep a smile on my face."

Not that he is just sitting around, mind you, merely smiling and killing time. Lewis has been more active this offseason, in fact, than ever. He has been training with several other NFL players and FOX and NFL Network analyst Jay Glazer working on MMA fighting.  

"I have been working with Jay since the second week of April, and it's definitely new for me," Lewis said. "I feel like a toddler all over again. At this point now, I am in the best shape I have ever been in since I have been playing professional sports. It's exciting, man. 

"I think after every year, you have to assess where you are and where you can gain an edge over your opponent. This (training) has definitely given me that opportunity."  

He's also excited about next season once the contract stuff works itself out. He believes his Jaguars — yes, the much-maligned Jags — have a chance. And he thinks his quarterback — yes, David Garrard, not the new guy, Blaine Gabbert — can help them win it.  

"I think, me being in my fifth year, I am older, I am comfortable in the offense … Dave (Garrard) and I were on the same page," Lewis said of his breakout 2010 season. "He was getting hit in the mouth, but he knew where I was going to be and he could get me the ball and that I was going to be making plays.

"Now we just have to take it to that next step. We have been right on the cusp. I think as a team, we need to not look at excuses and not look to say, 'Oh, we're young.' It's on us now. If everyone is on the same page and says, 'Why not us right now?' we have all the pieces to do it."

If not, changes almost certainly would be afoot. Head coach Jack Del Rio was no guarantee to come back for this season, so missing the postseason in ’11 almost certainly would be curtains for him.

But the state of the franchise also is in flux. Stories about relocating, which have been whispered for years, were whipped up once again when it was revealed that the Jaguars were among the franchises that a prospective Los Angeles group talked to last week. And let's face it: Most people think the Jaguars are the franchise that's most likely to go.

Lewis, an L.A. guy at heart (he grew up in Long Beach and went to UCLA), isn't buying the talk. In fact, he's roundly ignoring it.

"It's just talk. The more real it could be, the more fake it becomes," using his lockout-optimism rationale. "There's not even a stadium built out here yet."

And yet Lewis, who makes his offseason home in L.A., knows that the City of Angels not only can but needs to host an NFL team in a matter of time.

"Oh yeah, L.A. is ready for a team again. When that time comes, they'll be ready for it."

Lewis is happy and content. And why not? He's getting the best workouts of his life, coming off his best season and all this at the age of 27. Plus, he's hosting his third annual free youth football camp this weekend, an event that has grown each year and helps underprivileged youths learn about football and life with the guidance of several NFL players.

"When I was younger, I didn't have a chance to go to any football camps and get advice from NFL players and get good teaching," he said. "The event has gotten bigger every year, and it's just a joy to see all the kids, 500 of them, out there learning and having fun."

What he doesn't have right now is actual football — or that big payday he's likely to get eventually.

"For now, I just sit back and smile," he said. "I might be (pessimistic) about some things, but I am loving my life right now."  

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