Friday, November 7, 2008
Peterson clears air with Del Rio, but playing status to be determined
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Linebacker Mike Peterson rejoined the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday, going through practice, attending meetings and trying to move on from what he called a rough couple of days.
It remained unclear whether the team's top tackler and defensive captain would return to the starting lineup Sunday at Detroit.
Coach Jack Del Rio said Peterson's status was "to be determined."
"He'll travel, and we'll decide what we think is best for the team," Del Rio said. "To me, we put an end to this."
Del Rio and Peterson spoke Friday morning, but neither the coach nor the player would address what was said in the closed-door meeting.
"I'm 100 percent behind my coach, 100 percent behind my teammates, ready to do what I need to do to get a win this week," Peterson said.
Del Rio sent Peterson home Wednesday as punishment for speaking out during a team meeting. According to teammates, Del Rio called out Peterson for his muscle-flexing celebration at Cincinnati following a sack. Del Rio was upset that Peterson was reveling in a play in a game the Jaguars trailed 21-3.
Peterson defended himself in the meeting, saying he was trying to give the team a spark, but Del Rio didn't want to hear any excuses. The coach had even told players before he singled out a few that he didn't want to hear a word from anyone.
Peterson returned to the complex Thursday, but was sent home again.
"It was rough, naturally it was rough," Peterson said. "But like I said, I'm 100 percent back with my teammates, players, ready to get back to work."
Peterson said the whole thing was blown out proportion, and he took exception to anyone believing it had something to do with his contract status or reduced playing time.
Peterson is in the final year of a six-year, $21 million contract. He ripped the club during training camp for not offering him an extension in the offseason, but Jacksonville didn't want to guarantee any money to a 32-year-old linebacker who missed 17 games the last two seasons because of injuries.
The Jaguars have pulled Peterson off the field in third-down passing situations, the first time in his 10-year career that he hasn't been an every-down player.
"What you may be thinking is totally wrong," Peterson said.
Peterson and Del Rio exchanged a few words on the practice field, then the coach patted the player on the backside and walked away. Peterson reclaimed his spot in the middle of the defense a few minutes later, but said he didn't know if he would be there Sunday.
"The decision is his," Peterson said. "All I can do is prepare myself and be ready. I'm ready to roll. Get back to football, that's my main focus. Doing whatever I can do to help my team get a win this week."
The Jaguars (3-5) have lost two straight and three of their last four. They are trying to avoid becoming the first in NFL history to lose back-to-back games to winless teams (Cincinnati and Detroit) this late in the season.
If Peterson doesn't play, Jacksonville would be without two defensive starters. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle John Henderson was ruled out Friday because of a sprained medial collateral knee ligament.
Henderson, ejected from last week's game for trading blows with Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, missed practice all week and has been wearing a cumbersome knee brace.
"We'll rotate the other guys in," Del Rio said. "Obviously, Big John is a big, strong guy for us. We'd like to have him available, but he'll get healthy and rejoin us soon. We'll work it out. We'll plug in the guys we have and be ready to go battle."