JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A short week is the last thing the short-handed Jacksonville Jaguars needed right now.
They already have placed more players on injured reserve (27) than any team in the league, and are so banged up at some positions that receiver Taylor Price and safeties Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Darcel McBath — all signed in the last 10 days — could play significant roles Thursday night at Atlanta.
It will be Jacksonville's third game in 11 days, a stretch that has star running back Maurice Jones-Drew sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber and tight end Marcedes Lewis trying to get his body to bounce back sooner than normal.
"I feel like I got hit by a truck," Lewis said Tuesday.
The team's roster looks like it did, too.
The Jaguars (4-9) are playing without six defensive linemen, their top three cornerbacks, a starting offensive lineman, a starting linebacker and several key backups. Plus, safety Dwight Lowery missed Sunday's game against Tampa Bay because of a shoulder injury, and his backup, rookie Chris Prosinski, broke his thumb and landed on IR.
In December alone, Jacksonville has added 15 players because of injuries. It's been so chaotic that the equipment staff had to bring in temporary lockers that are used in training camp. An equally telling scene happened when Paul Posluszny stopped in the hallway Thursday to introduce himself to fellow linebacker Sidney Tarver, who had been out of the league since Cleveland waived him in final cuts.
"We've had a lot of injuries," Posluszny said. "That's a big story. We've got guys coming in and out every day, especially this time of year with guys banged up. But we need bodies. A lot of new faces."
The Jaguars have had so many season-ending injuries that they had to reach injury settlements with five players just to maintain a practice squad. The NFL allows teams to have no more than 80 players under contract, including guys on the 53-man roster, the eight-man practice squad and injured reserve.
Jacksonville is down to five players on its practice squad, and one of those, place-kicker Brandon Coutu, might have to be promoted if Josh Scobee can't play Thursday because of a groin injury.
"Football is a game of injuries, we all know that," interim coach Mel Tucker said. "Some years you have more than others. ... Obviously guys get hurt and the next guy's got to stand up and be ready to go."
The next-guy-up mantra doesn't always work.
Cornerbacks Ashton Youboty and Kevin Rutland, both forced into action after injuries to Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox and Will Middleton, were burned against San Diego two weeks ago.
Jacksonville's receiving corps is facing depth issues now.
Mike Thomas (concussion) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) are unlikely to play Thursday, and since the Jaguars waived starter Jason Hill and placed Brian Robiskie on IR, they are down to Jarett Dillard, special teams ace Kassim Osgood and relative newcomers Price and Chastin West.
"Whoever is down, somebody else is up," Lewis said. "We've got to keep rolling. Who's going to be in there is who's going to be in there."
The Jaguars certainly could use a few extra days to sort through their injuries.
Instead, they had to cram a week's worth of preparation into two days. They trimmed parts of practice, asked players to do some film study on their own and tried to speed recovery times by getting in extra stretching and additional time in cold tubs.
Jones-Drew started preparing weeks ago.
He has been sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber the last three weeks, hoping the pure oxygen and added compression will reduce inflammation, minimize bruising and speed up the healing process.
"Whatever it takes to get as much energy as you can to get back up there by Thursday," said Jones-Drew, who spent about $25,000 on the chamber a few years ago. "Hopefully you can heal like Superman."