JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Jacksonville Jaguars players reported Monday for the start of the offseason conditioning program, they found their locker room was significantly different from when they left.
Not only had head coach Doug Marrone removed the pingpong table that has been in the center of the locker room since Jack Del Rio’s tenure, he also rearranged the lockers. Players are no longer grouped by position, but rather spread out throughout the locker room.
"Coach Marrone made a great point," linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "He said we used to sit in position groups so all the linebackers sat together, all the O-line were in the corner, and he said that you’re in position meetings all day, you have individual together, let’s have an opportunity to put you next to different people that you wouldn’t necessarily be around. Learn your teammates better and overall we’ll grow as a team."
Posluszny’s locker used to be next to linebacker Telvin Smith. Now he has defensive end Dante Fowler on one side and an empty locker on the other.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson’s locker used to be next at the end of a row. Now he’s between cornerback Jalen Ramsey and offensive tackle Jermey Parnell. Smith is now next to kicker Jason Myers. They used to be on opposite ends of the locker room.
It may seem random, but Jackson said it’s not.
"I think they strategically put that locker room together to put leaders in all four corners and in between, and let the young guys understand and follow," he said. "I think it should work well."
The oddest pairing is Smith, one of the team’s vocal leaders, and Myers, who is known among his teammates as one of the quieter guys on the roster.
"We always talk about them being the most non-athletic guys, but I've got a respect for Jason and I think it's great I'm sitting next to him," Smith said. "For somebody who in one play can change a lot in the game … We're going to see how that goes."
It’ll be interesting to see how the players handle the removal of the pingpong table. It got significant use; there always seemed to be a game going on during the 45 minutes media were allowed in the locker room during the season.
"I didn't play pingpong as much, you know, so it doesn't matter to me," Smith said. "But some of my teammate are really good pingpong players, so maybe they are [bothered], so for them, I feel sorry.
"But, hey, if it's a distraction, get it out of here."
Marrone isn’t the only coach that has recently removed a popular item from the locker room. Last month new Buffalo coach Sean McDermott took out a pool table that had been in use for years. It was auctioned off online and a portion of the proceeds went to the Buffalo Bills Foundation.
The message McDermott and Marrone are sending is clear: What you’ve been doing in the past hasn’t been good enough -- and yielded few victories -- so it’s time to focus more intently and work a little harder.
Jaguars players got it pretty quickly during Monday’s first team meeting.
"I think the biggest thing was that we’re going to put the work in to be as good as we can be," said defensive end Calais Campbell, who last month signed a four-year, $60 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. "It doesn’t happen just by showing up. It’s about the way we grind, so we’re going to work really hard to be the best team we can possibly be."