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Leftwich practices; Jaguars mum on QB choice

Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich returned to practice, took the first snap with the offense and declared himself healthy enough to play. But will he start Nov.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 1, 2006) -- Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich returned to practice, took the first snap with the offense and declared himself healthy enough to play.

But will he start Nov. 5 against Tennessee?

Coach Jack Del Rio sidestepped the quarterback situation, fueling speculation he might stick with mobile backup David Garrard even if Leftwich is ready to return after missing the victory last week at Philadelphia with a sore left ankle.

"I'll continue to get good information, make the best decision possible for this football team and to put our best people out there to win games," Del Rio said. "That's what it's going to be about again this week. I don't want to get into a lot of speculation. I'm not announcing anything. There's not a whole lot more beyond that that I care to discuss."

The quarterbacks were slightly more helpful.

Leftwich, who missed two practices last week, said he had no reason to believe he had lost the starting job to Garrard and added that his relationship with Del Rio had not soured even though the coach blamed Leftwich for convincing the staff he was healthy enough to play at Houston two weeks ago. Leftwich then played poorly in a 27-7 loss.

Leftwich also threw his shoulder pads to the ground Oct. 26 when he learned Del Rio wanted Garrard to take all the practice repetitions.

"I was frustrated from the standpoint of not being able to play," said Leftwich, who was listed as probable on the injury report. "When I don't play, I'm frustrated. I just missed a game. I feel good about it because it wasn't a situation where I was struggling all year. Something came up and I couldn't go."

Garrard expects to be back on the bench when the Jaguars (4-3) host the Titans (2-5).

"I'm in the same situation I was in last week," Garrard said. "My feeling is if he's healthy, he's going to be the starting quarterback."

But Garrard's 5-1 record as a starter the past two seasons and his mobility make him more attractive to fans clamoring for change.

Maybe to Del Rio, too.

The coach said he planned to make a decision later this week, but added he might not announce it.

"At some point I will communicate what needs to be communicated -- to everybody that needs to know, including them," he said. "It's unlikely I would wait until Sunday morning. Of course, I'm not putting (the media) in that category of needs to know."

While Leftwich returned to practice, 10 others missed the session and three of them were ruled out for the game. Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud (ankle), cornerback Terry Cousin (groin) and fullback Derrick Wimbush (ankle) won't play against the Titans. It will be the fourth consecutive missed game for Stroud.

Offensive lineman Stockar McDougle (ankle) was doubtful, and defensive end Brent Hawkins (groin) was questionable.

The other five -- running backs Fred Taylor (thigh) and Maurice Drew (thigh), defensive tackle John Henderson (hamstring), safety Donovin Darius (knee) and cornerback Rashean Mathis (hamstring) -- were probable.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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