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Jaguars players get social with ‘virtual’ team cook-off

The Jaguars are getting creative during team-bonding amid the on-going pandemic, using a cooking contest to create some much-needed unity.

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With the Jaguars players unable to meet face-to-face, creative methods must be used in order to create unity one would be able to have happen organically from within the locker room.

A simple, friendly competition has never harmed anyone, but there is no doubt players will be trying their hardest to win a cook-off to be judged later this week by a panel which includes Jaguars team nutritionist Mindy Black.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is all for team-bonding exercises, noting it’s importance on Friday when discussing the virtual offseason that has presented unique challenges for teams league-wide.

“I think the challenge was to make sure we have some fun with this,” said Marrone on Friday. “It’s not all just Xs and Os and all of that, so I think when you challenge the coaches and you challenge the players that way, I think that can open it up.”

While not in front of the team face-to-face, Marrone feels it is tough to get a handle on the players’ body language or “spark” in their eyes so to speak, however, the team is constantly coming up with new ideas to get a better understanding of the personalities which make up this young Jaguars football team.

Over the course of the virtual offseason, the Jaguars will conduct a weekly exercise, enabling the players to break out of their shells, kind of similar to ice breakers at a new job, or perhaps happy hour on Fridays.

For this week, a standard cook-off will take place. The only issue? The judges won’t be able to actually taste or smell the food.

“At the dinner table it was brought up, ‘How smart are you to have a cooking contest when no one can taste food?’’ Marrone said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘We’re just talking about presentation.’ So, this is what I have to deal with at home.”

Marrone challenged Jaguars director of public relations Tad Dickman and others to come up with various exercises the team could use for the weeks moving forward. For this competition, while there will not be any tasting going on, the presentation will be key.

Each individual player who is participating will take first a picture of their ingredients, a picture of the player cooking the food, and then the food itself.

(Note: While it may appear at first glance the pizza was not home-made, it was indeed made from scratch)

“So each week we’re doing something a little bit different like that, so I think you got a chance to show a little bit of your personality,” Marrone said of the weekly exercises.

“I know on some of the meetings, prior to the meetings starting, I know a lot of the players have been talking about what they’re preparing, so I’m kinda excited to at least see the visual of it. This is about presentation which is also another important element to dining so I’m looking forward to it.”

There is surely to be a variety of delicious food presented during this competition, however while he may not be judging it, Marrone views the offensive and defensive linemen as the current front-runners.

“When it comes to food, you always gotta go with the biggest guys,” he said, jokingly. “You know, some of these other guys it’ll be like Kale salad and something like that.”

Jaguars center Brandon Linder may have an edge due to his hunting and fishing skills, the ability to catch and cook your own food could present added brownie points among the judges, however, a brisket done by offensive lineman KC McDermott might win it all.

“So, I’m looking forward to seeing what some of these guys do.”