Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke had his final preseason appearance with the Jacksonville Jaguars end abruptly.
The 25-year-old QB entered the game with eight minutes and 43 seconds left in the third quarter. He led a touchdown drive on his first possession which included a 43-yard connection with Seth Williams on a deep pass down the right sideline.
Rourke completed 4-of-6 passes for 74 yards prior to Dolphins receiver Daewood Davis being hit in the head causing him to lay motionless on the field with eight minutes and 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. A cart was brought out as he was immobilized on a board and taken to Baptist Medical Center for further evaluation while conscious with movement in all extremities. Upon mutual agreement of the teams, the exhibition game was suspended with the Jags winning 31-18.
“After the hit, you start looking at your team, you start looking at their team, you start looking at body language and where guys are mentally. After the amount of time that went past, Mike [McDaniel] and I got together and talked about suspending the game,” head coach Doug Pederson explained.
“From where it was, we had our player reps involved, New York involved — it was the right thing to do. This game is all about player safety. I know it’s a preseason game and some guys are fighting for spots, but at the same time, we want to make sure everybody is 100 percent.”
Meanwhile, Rourke went viral in his NFL preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys, garnering the attention of reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes and millions more with a spectacular touchdown pass after he broke a number of tackle attempts. He finished 9-of-17 passing for 153 yards with one TD in that game to go along with six rushes for 20 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Pederson learned “a lot” about the young quarterback from that day.
The Victoria, B.C. native followed it up with another efficient outing against the Detroit Lions, leading the Jaguars on two touchdown drives while playing the entire second half. He completed 10-of-12 pass attempts (83 percent) for 121 yards while rushing six times for 14 yards; earning praise for his poise in the pocket and accuracy.
The 25-year-old signed with Jacksonville this offseason following an extensive NFL workout tour that included 12 teams. He is one of three quarterbacks on the team’s roster and could slot third on the depth chart behind Pro Bowler Trevor Lawrence and veteran backup C.J. Beathard.
The Jaguars face the difficult decision of whether to carry Rourke on their 53-man active roster as an emergency quarterback or attempt to place him on the practice roster but risk him being claimed by another team. NFL teams have until Tuesday, August 29 at 4:00 p.m. ET to make final cuts.
“Our young guys have played extremely well. They’ve really embraced the opportunities and made the most of their opportunities when they had their chances in these three preseason games. My hats off to them for how they attacked training camp,” Pederson said.
“This is a tough time of the year for 32 clubs. You’ve gotta get down to 53 and you disrupt the lives of so many players. We’ve got a chance [Sunday] to get through the tape. We’re going to get through [Sunday] and start making some tough decisions Monday, Tuesday.”
Rourke is coming off a sensational 2022 season in the CFL during which he completed 78.7 percent of his pass attempts for 3,349 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 10 games — 8-1 as a starter. He ran the football 39 times for 304 yards and seven scores while becoming the first quarterback to win the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian award since 1980.
The six-foot-two, 209-pound dual-threat passer was a three-year starter at Ohio University from 2017-2019 where he threw for 7,457 yards with 60 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He recorded 425 carries for 2,634 yards and 49 scores along the ground but received a small amount of NFL interest coming out of the NCAA.
Jacksonville will begin the 2023 regular season on Sunday, September 10 when the Jags visit the Indianapolis Colts.