The Jacksonville Jaguars can make the playoffs if they beat the Tennessee Titans in the finale. If they lose, they can still qualify but they would need lots of help to get in. Trevor Lawrence knows how high the stakes are which is why he's doing everything within his power to suit up in Week 18.
Lawrence is currently dealing with a shoulder sprain. While he began testing his shoulder in practice Thursday, his status for the finale is still up in the air. The third-year quarterback told the local media Wednesday that he's making progress but he continues to feel sore. He also noted that he's trying to find a balance between pushing too hard and not hard enough to be ready for Sunday. But if he's healthy, or as close as he can be, he feels the responsibility to play.
"At this point in the year, everybody's dealing with something," Lawrence said. "The way I see it is if you can play, you play. If you can't, then you can't, and you don't. I do think it can be difficult depending on the injury to make that decision sometimes because have to weigh: One, can I play close to my best to help the team? And two is this going to affect me long-term to where next week or the following week because it's still going to be lingering if I decide to play? You gotta weigh that."
"That can be difficult, but the whole commitment deal in this game is important and guys understand on this team. If you can play, you play. We understand, we're an unselfish group and that's the mindset of everyone not just me or anyone else. That's how it works. That's how I view it anyways, and maybe not everybody does but I don't think I was necessarily trying to play through too much. I've been a little bit unfortunate this year having some injuries and things I've been dealing with but everybody has that and it's gonna happen at some point," Lawrence said.
Lawrence continued, "Those are things you got to battle through. I could have played a lot better through some of that. There was some stuff where I didn't play my best in the past three, four, whatever weeks it was before last week. But I'm never gonna make an excuse for injuries. If you step on the field, you're expected to perform at a certain level, regardless of what's going on. And I'm well aware of that. Everybody makes that decision on a week-to-week basis."
Injuries are an inherent part of football given how physical it is. However, there's also an element of randomness to getting hurt. Some players never get more than bumps and bruises while others deal with several ailments to the point that their careers are cut short. In Lawrence's case, he had had a relatively clean bill of health until this season.
First, Lawrence hurt his knee in Week 6. He then sprained his ankle in Week 13. Two games later, he suffered a concussion. In all three instances, he managed to play the following week. It wasn't until he sprained his shoulder in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he had to miss a contest.
All these injuries have had a negative effect on Lawrence's performance. His numbers are down all across the board this season, and has at times made costly mistakes. It hasn't helped that the Jaguars have dealt with injuries on the offensive line and at wide receiver. In fact, the team's shortcomings have been a reason he's tried to do too much at times.
The Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence find themselves dealing with a catch-22 situation
Trevor Lawrence gives the Jaguars their best chance to win against the Tenessee Titans. On the other hand, they could be exposing him to further injury if he's not good to go, so it would make sense to let him rest for a week and have him ready for the playoffs.
Then again, Jacksonville isn't a lock to qualify for the postseason, and without Lawrence, they may not get in. C.J. Beathard was serviceable in the win over the Carolina Panthers but his limits were also in full display. While Beathard might've been enough to beat the Panthers, the Jaguars may have a harder time disposing of a Tennessee team that wants to play the role of spoilers in the finale. Therein lies the dilemma.
Playing Lawrence and resting him come with their respective sets of pros and cons. One thing to consider is that the former Clemson Tiger needs to look out for himself and his long-term health. If he's too reckless, he runs the risk of compromising his ability to play in the future, so he needs to put things in perspective. On the other hand, he won't hesitate to suit up in Week 18 if he thinks he's healthy enough.
Whether Trevor Lawrence plays or not, the Jacksonville Jaguars must find a way to squeeze a win in the finale. They're a much better team when he's behind center but they cannot compromise his health if they want him to be there for years to come.