As offseason preparation kicks into full gear with the start of organized team activities this week, Jaguars running back Travis Etienne is relishing the opportunity to start training again coming off of his first healthy season.
Having spent his last offseason focusing on recovery from the Lisfranc injury that ended his rookie year in the preseason, Etienne said this week that he's excited to be spending this summer honing football skills instead of rehabbing.
"Last year was more about getting healthy and getting back," Etienne said this week. "This year, I didn't have to worry about my foot. It's great. So I'm able to work on football, all football."
While he mentioned wanting to focus on footwork and "fine-tuning my skills," Etienne specifically addressed fixing his previous fumbles issues, having lost the ball five times in 2022, tied for second among running backs. The 24-year-old said that he feels "very confident" in his ball security at this point, and expressed that it meant a lot that his teammates and coaches continued to support him throughout last season, even when he was struggling.
"All the great running backs put the ball on the ground sometimes, but it's on us to just keep getting better and better and be aware," he said. "And I feel like my teammates, they believe in me, so as long as I've got their belief, we're good.
"It allows me to go out there and play free, to go out there and make those big plays and continue to be special and not just live within my head. … It kind of goes to show that (coach Doug Pederson) believes in my skillset, and I'm going to go out there and be myself."
Etienne will be hoping his preparation will result in even better numbers than in 2022, when he finished with 1,125 yards -- eighth among all running backs -- despite a slow start and an early battle for starts with James Robinson before the veteran was traded to the Jets.
But even as Etienne prepares to become the workhorse of the Jacksonville rushing offense, the Jaguars have been making moves to add depth to the unit behind their star.
Jacksonville re-signed JaMycal Hasty, added free-agent D’Ernest Johnson and drafted Tank Bigsby in the third round of the draft last month, setting up solid backfield options to allow for more of a committee approach instead of being forced to rely solely on Etienne in the run game.
Being able to divvy up the snaps gives the offense a chance to show different styles of running, as well as help players avoid injuries from overuse. And with Etienne having averaged 15.2 snaps per game in starts post-Robinson, he knows it would only be a good thing to have another dependable option to shoulder the load.
"It keeps the wear and tear off of my body," Etienne said. "I don't have to go and ding myself up each and every play. I got somebody else to take a couple licks off of me, and I love that."
Etienne specifically mentioned Bigsby as a new player he's excited to work with, saying that playing with him in practice has already given him extra motivation, as Etienne wants to lead by example for the other players in the locker room.
"I like Tank, I feel like he's very passionate and he loves the game of football," Etienne said of the rookie from Auburn. "That's the guys you want around you, the guys who push you to be great each and every day, Because he's looking up to me and I want to be a great example for him. … He's going to push me to get better and I'm going to push him to get better."