JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley makes his return to EverBank Field on Sunday for the first time since the Jacksonville Jaguars fired him Dec. 18. Expect there to be a lot of handshaking and hugs on the field during warm-ups.
There are 36 players on the Jaguars' active roster and on injured reserve who played at least one season for Bradley during his nearly four-year tenure as head coach. While the Jaguars did not win a lot of games under Bradley (14-48), his former players liked and respected him.
Here's a sampling of their thoughts on playing for Bradley:
Quarterback Blake Bortles, whom the Jaguars drafted third overall in 2014
"I think everybody around here that had a chance to be around him, I think a lot of people would say the same thing and speak to the high level of character that he has, the dude that he was. I'm very grateful to Gus because he was the guy that was here when I was drafted to come here. He was a guy that believed in me from the very beginning. I'm very grateful for that.
"To have a guy like that to come into the NFL and be able to sit down and talk with him about football, about different things, about life, about everything, that was important. That was stuff I cherished and [am] super appreciative of. He's moved on and gone to the Chargers, and I'm sure he is bringing all of that there. He's somebody that I'll maintain a relationship with for the rest of my life."
Linebacker Telvin Smith, the Jaguars' fifth-round pick in 2014
"For a guy with my kind of attitude, it was perfect because he allowed me to be myself, and that's not something that a lot of coaches allow a young guy like myself [to do] because I come in talking, rowdy. And a lot of people are like, 'shut up,' and the statement 'you need to be seen not heard and those who are heard won't be seen,' whatever. And just his joy and his aura that he gave off to the whole organization. I tried to take from that and build who I am.
“He definitely deserves a good piece of [credit for what's happening with the team now] because he's the one that believed in me and got me here. To that, again, I say he's the guy that took that chance that said, 'That's a guy that I want to work with.' A great guy."
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, whom the Jaguars drafted fifth overall in 2016
"That man believed in me. That man gave me the opportunity to be here with this organization, the Jaguars, along with some people here still, but that man for sure, so yeah, I'm excited to see [Bradley]."
DT Abry Jones, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Jaguars in 2013
"It's going to be a little weird seeing him in a whole new light, but Gus is going to be Gus. He's going to have a big old smile on his face.
"Coming out undrafted, he gave me my first chance and whatnot, and he's always a constant motivator. He always wanted to motivate everybody in the locker room, and he motivated me also to better myself and do better things. Definitely, I'm always going to remember Gus."
QB Chad Henne, who signed with the Jaguars as a free agent in 2012
"It'll be good to see him, a good reunion. I'll always have respect for him. I enjoyed being around him. Great coach for me. I only can say good things about him.
"I think just the positivity of just the game in itself [is what he'll always remember about Bradley]. Obviously it's very important to us, but there's bigger things in life that go around football, and your mindset is such a big part of the game. To keep a positive attitude. Every day at work we came in with a positive attitude. Whether it helped it or not, it helped a lot for me coming in each day being positive and going about my business."