JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence wanted to make something perfectly clear: The team did have a cart available to take him off the field after he injured his right ankle against Cincinnati on Monday night.
He just didn't want to use it.
Lawrence said Wednesday that he was pretty close to the tunnel entrance and felt like it would be quicker for him to walk with some help to the EverBank Stadium locker room and X-ray facility than to wait for the cart to maneuver its way through the extra equipment to get to him. So that's what he did -- although he did admit he might have had some regret.
"We talked about getting a cart and I was going to get a cart, and then I'm standing there and I'm already on the sideline at that point, the tunnel's right there, I just wanted to get off the field, get out of there," Lawrence said. "I didn't know what was going on with my ankle, and I felt like I could get off [the field]. I was like, 'Hey, you're good. Just don't bring it out. I'm going in.'
"And then once I got in there [the hallway], I'm like, 'This is a pretty long walk.' They asked again if I wanted a cart. I'm like, 'No, we're going to make it the whole way there.'"
The television footage of Lawrence, with people under each arm assisting him, walking in the tunnel and hallway of EverBank Stadium has drawn criticism on social media, television and radio. Jaguars punter Logan Cooke defended the team on social media by going after one of the more notable critics.
Lawrence found it ludicrous that people would actually think the Jaguars wouldn't have a cart available for an injured player.
"We have everything we need, and I was the one that that didn't choose to take [a cart], so you guys put that on me," he said. "Maybe that was dumb. Maybe I should have taken one, but it's nothing to do with us not having a cart available. I don't think that would happen in the National Football League, especially here with the crew that we have."
Lawrence said Wednesday that his right ankle feels much better than he anticipated it would two days after suffering a high ankle sprain. The injury occurred when left tackle Walker Little stepped on Lawrence's foot and the quarterback had it get caught underneath him when he fell.
He's happy with the way his rehab has gone so far and is hopeful that will continue, and that he can get cleared to play at the Browns on Sunday.
"I'm really just taking it one day at a time," Lawrence said. "I'm trying to do as much as I can each day without aggravating it or making anything worse but trying to progress towards hopefully playing. And for the past 48 hours there have been some big steps and I'm really happy with how it's healing up.
"So, we'll see. You know, I obviously can't give any answers right now and just going to take my time and do everything right."
There is precedent to returning one week after suffering a high ankle sprain. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes started the 2022 AFC Championship Game against the Bengals eight days after he suffered that injury against the Jaguars in a divisional playoff game. He was able to practice fully the Thursday before the Bengals game, and Chiefs coach Andy Reid announced Friday of game week that Mahomes would start.
Mahomes went 29-for-43 for 326 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Chiefs' 23-20 victory.
It's a bit of a different situation for Lawrence because the Jaguars won't have their best pass-catcher (receiver Christian Kirk is out with a groin injury) and also could be starting their third left tackle if Little (hamstring) is unable to play.
"I don't want to compare two injuries," coach Doug Pederson said. "Two different people [and] the circumstance of playing in a conference championship game versus a regular-season game are two different things. But obviously they felt -- they being the Chiefs -- like he was good, he couldn't hurt himself further, and obviously he played. That's the case here. We want to make sure that, before we put him on the field, that, as this week goes, that he's capable of not reinjuring himself."
Pederson said Lawrence won't play unless there's no chance he could do any further damage to his right ankle. Being in a tight division race -- the Jaguars (8-4) have a one-game lead over the Texans and Colts -- and fighting for playoff seeding will have no bearing on that decision, either.
"It's our job to protect those players and make sure [putting them back on the field] is not at the cost of winning a football game," Pederson said. "And yes, we are in this last sort of month of the year where we're making our run, but we also know, too, that if Trevor can't play in this game, there's going to come a time at some point where he is.
"We've all got to come together to kind of weather this storm a little bit so that when, if there's a time when he does return, that we make that push with him."
Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, who would start against the Browns if Lawrence is unable to play, was limited in practice Wednesday because of an injury to his left (non-throwing shoulder). He said he hurt it when he fell on it after a scramble on his first play after he entered Monday's game.