JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton took a significant step Thursday toward playing again this season.

Hamilton returned to the practice field for the first time in nearly two months after dealing with a back infection that landed him on crutches, in the hospital and undergoing roughly six weeks of IV antibiotics.

The Jaguars opened a 21-day window for Hamilton to rejoin the active roster. That also allowed him to work on the side during practice. Hamilton, who remains on injured reserve, is expected back after the team’s Week 9 bye.

“It’s nice,” Hamilton said after practice. “Kind of been away for a while and being able to step back on the field with the guys and kind of get immersed in what they’re doing is a big blessing for me.”

Hamilton had been sidelined since training camp because of a back infection that popped up before a joint practice at Detroit in August. Pain and discomfort led to a hospital visit that eventually diagnosed the infection. He’s been on the mend since, having recently gained clearance to resume running and working out.

The worst part for him, though, was watching from afar.

“I can’t think of anything else that would be probably worse than that,” he said.

Hamilton and the Jaguars still don’t know what caused the infection.

A third-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2020, Hamilton signed a three-year, $34.5 million contract extension in April after getting a career-high 56 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in 2022.

Jacksonville’s defense has been solid without him, even stout against the run. But the team gave him a contract extension because he’s able to push the pocket and create inside pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Without him, the Jaguars have just nine sacks in five games, which ties them for 26th in the league.

“I’m very eager, but I know I have to take my time and really make sure when I go out there, I’m playing like myself from before,” Hamilton said.

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