A few minutes with … Marcedes Lewis

Jaguars Pro Bowl TE Marcedes Lewis took time out during a visit to the NFL Network studios to talk about his offseason training, what it will take for the Jaguars to win their division and why he’s the best tight end in football.

We’re more than 60 days into the lockout. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done this offseason?
ML: I would say the MMA training I’ve been doing. I’ve always been a UFC fan, and it’s just been a blessing in disguise. Now I’m learning it and doing it really well. It’s been a great experience, and I found something I can continue to do.

Does the MMA training make you a better football player?
I think so. Where my mind is now, it makes me more hungry to go out there and succeed. I’ve never felt like this before. Now it’s like I have an edge, and I know I do. I’ve dropped about nine pounds. I’m shaped different. My endurance is ridiculous. My cardio is crazy. I’m training like a fighter, I’m thinking like a fighter. … What I’m doing right now, it’s some of the greatest training I’ve ever had. I don’t ever remember working this hard. … It’s all going to equate. I’m excited to get out there. I can’t afford to take a break. I know my competition is maybe taking a break, but I can’t be that guy.

Who is the baddest dude in the NFL? Who would you not want to get in the ring with?
ML: Ndamukong Suh. Clearly. He’s a monster. He’s one of those guys that heard what he couldn’t do and then went on the field and did it.

Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis during a portrait session at the NFL Network Studio on May 18, 2011 in Culver City, Ca. (Gary A. Vasquez)/NFL

Is there a career in this for you after football?
ML: No, in my career after football I would want to keep my face all intact! I don’t think it will be that. But the training is definitely over the top and something I look forward to. I’m out there working harder than whoever else is working the hardest.

Speaking of over the top, would you ever get on a 1,500-pound bull?
ML: No, I don’t think so. On the list of things that I wouldn’t do, that’s probably at the top.

Let’s talk about your team. What did it mean for David Garrard when the Jaguars took Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick?
ML: It doesn’t change anything for Garrard. It doesn’t change who he is as a person, what he’s overcome to get in the position he’s in, the kind of leader he is to us on and off the field. He’ll do what he’s always done and accept the challenge. Obviously, you want to keep evolving as a franchise. Gene Smith has done a great job with the guys he’s drafted and brought in to help this team be better. Obviously, Gabbert is a guy with a skill set to compete right away and push Dave. At the same time, Dave accepts it, and when his back is against the wall, he comes out and is at his best. It’s his job to continue to be a leader and take Blaine under is wing.

What it will it take for the Jaguars to win the AFC South?
ML: Great attention to detail when it’s needed most at the end of games.

That’s pretty specific …
ML: We are a team that is on the cusp. We haven’t arrived, we know that. I’m not going to keep saying we’re a young team, that’s an excuse. We’re grown men. I think, at times, this past year when we needed focus from 53 men, it took turns breaking down. The good teams don’t do that. We have to understand that, expect more from each other and keep pushing. There are a lot of teams that have the same aspirations. We have to understand that and use it to drive us to want more. It’s one thing to want it, but we have to go take what we want. That’s what it’s about.

Have you talked about this as a team?
ML: In spurts. Last year we did a good job of being focused. Our focus, as far as everyone being on the same page, was right there. But you can’t let what other people think of you have an impact on who you are in the locker room and what you believe in. We’re a small-market team, so a lot of people write us off to begin with. Regardless of whether you say it or not, subconsciously, we think about that. We have to be focused on our job. We have a job to do. That’s why we’re brought here.

Last season was your best season yet. What has changed for you?
ML: If you’re not getting better each year, you have to reassess what’s going on and get it together. Last year was a tribute to my teammates pushing me and my coaches putting me in great positions to make plays and be me. We were able to take that to a different level. That’s why I’m so excited to go again. I want to be one of the best. This is why I play. I don’t play to be average, I don’t play to just wear the helmet. I want to be one of the guys where you think of the Jaguars, you think about Marcedes Lewis and what I’ve done for the franchise. They know when they come to me, it’s money. This past season was a huge step in that direction.

OK, so who is the best right now?
ML: That’s a hard question, man. I like different guys for different things. The best all-around tight end is me. I’m not just saying that because it’s me. I love to block — it’s one of my passions. If not me, I would have to say Antonio Gates. I enjoy watching him play. I love Jason Witten — he’s solid. It’s so hard, though. There are a lot of guys who do different things well. But I’ll block your best defensive end and beat your best linebacker. That’s what I want people to know.

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