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Lawrence still in concussion protocol, leaving Jaguars preparing to play without star QB

Trevor Lawrence Jacksonville Jaguars Trevor Lawrence - The Canadian Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence was in the facility but still in the NFL's concussion protocol Wednesday, leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars preparing to play without their star quarterback for the first time in three seasons.

Coach Doug Pederson said Lawrence is “progressing well" but declined to speculate on Lawrence's chances of gaining clearance before Sunday's game at Tampa Bay (7-7).

“Still in the protocol," Pederson said. "Progressing well, but we have to follow the steps; we can’t skip anything.”

The Jaguars (8-6) believe Lawrence sustained a head injury while scrambling up the middle on the team's final drive in a 23-7 loss to Baltimore on Sunday. Lawrence misfired on seven of his final eight passes after the hit, a stretch that raised concerns on the sideline about his health. Lawrence reported symptoms after the game.

“He’s doing better," backup quarterback C.J. Beathard said. "He’s been in the building today. I got to talk to him and hang out with him.”

There has been precedent for guys to play a week after entering the league's concussion protocol, with San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy, Cleveland receiver Amari Cooper and New Orleans receiver Chris Olave gaining clearance before their next games.

If Lawrence doesn't get cleared, Beathard would make his first start since the 2020 season.

“Right now, I’m preparing as if I am going to be playing on Sunday," said Beathard, who is 2-10 as an NFL starter. "And then if (Thursday), Friday, whenever that day comes that he clears it, then that’s great news for us. But right now, I’m preparing as if I’ll have to go Sunday and hopefully he clears protocol by the end of the week.”

Lawrence has been questionable to play several times over the last two seasons but found a way to avoid missing a start. He played through a sprained toe last year, a sprained knee in October and a high ankle sprain the past few weeks.

The Jaguars have lost three in a row and are tied with Houston and Indianapolis atop the AFC South. But Jacksonville remains in control of its playoff destiny because of divisional tiebreakers.

The Jags already are without receiver Christian Kirk (groin) and left tackle Cam Robinson (knee) on offense, but losing Lawrence would be an entirely different obstacle to overcome for a franchise trying to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1998-99.

Pederson said going through concussion protocol is different because Lawrence might not be able to be in meetings or take part in practices.

“You got to follow the steps, and it is really based on symptoms and how he feels,” Pederson said. ”If it’s his knee or his ankle, he’s in those meetings and he’s getting the game plan and he’s listening and all of that. You just got to do it really case by case."

Lawrence has thrown for 3,525 yards this season, with 18 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He also has four rushing scores and six fumbles, and he's been sacked a career-high-tying 32 times.

“The No. 1 thing is making sure that he’s 100% and he has been cleared by all the specialists," Pederson said. “And then you have to make a decision as a team and see where he’s at, too. It definitely makes it harder, I guess.”