November 30, 2022

Travis Etienne hasn’t experienced contact in a football game for a year, an experience he wants to bring back during the sweltering heat of training camp. Etienne hasn’t played a game that counted since the College Football Playoff semifinals against Ohio State, back when he was torching college defenses at Clemson. 

Etienne hasn’t experienced NFL contact in nearly a year after suffering a LisFranc injury last August that ended his season. As the Jacksonville Jaguars running back is looking to get back to 100% for 2022, he’s embracing getting hit during the full-padded practices Doug Pederson provides at camp.

“Since my last Clemson game, this is the first time I’ve been tackled. I see why I fell in love with the game,” Etienne said Sunday. “I just love that adrenaline. I love getting hit. I just love being physical. Quickly I was reminded that this is a physical game. 

“I just got to get back to myself. I’m grateful that I’m out here playing, making plays. I just got to get back to myself, keep making the right progress.”

Pederson’s West Coast-based scheme will give Etienne plenty of targets in the backfield — and an opportunity to shine. Etienne left Clemson as the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,952), scrimmage yards (6,107), rushing touchdowns (70) and scrimmage touchdowns (78).

A versatile player, Etienne will pair with James Robinson in the Jaguars backfield as focal points in Pederson’s offense. Etienne is embracing getting tackled in preparation for Week 1, the first regular-season or postseason game he’ll play in 20 months. 

“I need to get tackled just to get my body back acclimated with that,” Etienne said. “I’ve just been at home, working out, chilling on the couch, stuff like that, so to come out here and get some bumps and bruises. I miss that contact. 

“It may sound crazy, but I miss kind of being in those car crashes.”

Etienne took just 16 snaps in the preseason last year for the Jaguars, playing just three snaps before the LisFranc injury in the preseason finale. Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor is OK with the contact, but want Etienne to be wise about the hits he’s absorbing. 

“There were a couple hits that he took on the sideline (that we) probably didn’t want him to take but we said, you’re allowed to step out right there,” Taylor said. “It’s a tough situation but (he) said he wanted to take a hit and see what it felt like and all that. 

“Somebody described, it’s the kind of hits you see in the football movies. He got smoked one of those times on the sideline, but he bounced up. He was perfectly fine.”

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