JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Jaguars center Brad Meester stood in front of his locker, still sweating from his first full practice in nearly two months, when teammate Khalif Barnes sneaked up from behind and smashed shaving cream in his face.
Welcome back, Brad.
Meester's return was definitely cause for celebration in Jacksonville's locker room, even if it came in the form of a playful prank. The leader of the offensive line missed most of training camp, all of the preseason and the first six meaningful games.
Without him, the Jaguars (3-3) gave up 15 sacks and struggled to consistently run the ball. They expect to improve in both areas when Meester returns to anchor the line following the team's bye week.
s on the O-line all lined up right, knowing who they've got to block. He's very vocal, so there will be no miscommunications with them. Getting Brad back on the field is going to be great for this offense.''
Meester tore his right biceps tendon July 27 and had surgery a few days later. It was the third injury in the last four seasons for the 31-year-old Iowa native and the second in as many training camps.
He missed the last four games in 2005 after tearing his left biceps tendon. He missed the first four games last season after breaking a bone in his right ankle during camp.
``The hardest thing ever is to have to sit there and watch,'' Meester said. ``It's the hardest thing for me, to sit there and not being able to play. It never gets any easier. It gets worse.
``Any time you have to stand on the sideline, it's hard. I'd rather be out there in the trenches, enjoying victories. It's been hard standing on the sideline, watching, rehabbing.''
Making matters worse for Jacksonville, guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams sustained season-ending injuries in the opener. So the line has played most of the year without three starters, all interior linemen, the guys relied upon to run the ball.
It showed, too.
g last season and third in 2006, were pretty much shut down in four of six games.
Taylor has 242 yards on the ground - half of which came against run-porous Indianapolis - and is averaging a paltry 3.4 yards a carry. Jones-Drew has been slightly more effective, gaining 301 yards and averaging 4.6 yards a carry. But 232 of his yards came against the Colts and Denver.
The offensive line got much of the blame in the other games.
``It's been tough for them,'' Meester said. ``As an O-line, you've got to have time to jell together. Just having to shuffle the way that we did, I thought they did a great job. It's really hard to work with different guys all the time.''
Meester could fix the problem.
Guard Chris Naeole could help, too. Naeole, who tore his quadriceps tendon off the bone last November and was released four months later, re-signed with the Jaguars last month and could be back in the starting lineup Oct. 26 against the Cleveland Browns.
Naeole and Meester worked with the first-team offense this week.
t be the only player still sidelined against the Browns.
Even defensive end Jeremy Mincey (wrist) and special teams ace Chad Nkang (hand) could be activated from the physically unable to perform list.
``I've been keeping my head high, working hard and trying to stay in shape,'' Mincey said. ``I think I'm ready. I'll get in football shape while I'm playing.''
Of all the returning players, though, Meester could be the most important. After all, the Jaguars believe that if they can run the ball effectively, it will open up the passing game and help keep the defense off the field.
``He's a great addition for us, a smart guy, the anchor of our line,'' Barnes said. ``We're happy to have him back.''
The prank showed how much.
Meester wiped the shaving cream off his face and vowed to get even with his fellow linemen, specifically Barnes.
``They can laugh now,'' Meester said. ``I'm going to laugh last.''

NFL Team Pages

Recent NFL Discussions