Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio banished linebacker Mike Peterson for "insubordination" stemming from a team meeting Wednesday when the coach challenged several players about their actions during and after the team's 21-19 loss to the previously winless Bengals, according to team sources.
Peterson was not allowed at the team's facility Thursday for the second straight day. The team is contemplating more specific disciplinary action and has had at least one discussion with Peterson's agent, Tom Condon.
Peterson will meet with Del Rio on Friday morning and if all goes well, Peterson will be allowed back onto the team, according to a source.
Peterson was on a list of players Del Rio was "calling out" during the meeting. The coach had made it clear he wanted no feedback from the players, but Peterson challenged Del Rio on a specific incident for which he was cited, the sources said.
Del Rio complained about Peterson's muscle-flexing celebration after a "shoestring" sack of Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, when the Jaguars were trailing 21-3 with two minutes left in the third quarter, sources said.
On the prior play, Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson had been ejected for trying to gouge the eyes of Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth, who also was ejected.
Instead of staying silent during the meeting, as Del Rio had requested, Peterson, the team captain, defended himself by saying he was just trying to bring some energy to the team.
Del Rio was agitated by the explanation and wanted none of the back-and-forth. Peterson was excused from the meeting. When Peterson reported for practice a short time later, he was told by Del Rio to go home, one source said.
"That's the first time I've seen a coach and player just disagree in front of everybody to the extent that they did," defensive end Reggie Hayward said Thursday. "It's extremely surprising, but this is a business and when things aren't going right, tempers flare.
"They're both human. Everyone wants to win, and when we don't win, tempers flare, pride gets in the way and people have disagreements."
Peterson could not be reached for comment.
Del Rio could make Peterson inactive for Sunday's game against the Lions or he could suspend the former Florida standout without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. Either way, Del Rio made it clear he doesn't want Peterson around to cause a distraction this week.
"It was a surprise to everybody," linebacker Daryl Smith said. "We don't know what's going to happen. Regardless, we've got to get ready to play Detroit."
Peterson, the team's top tackler and emotional leader, 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 the Jaguars didn't want to guarantee any money to a 32-year-old linebacker who missed 17 games the past two seasons because of injuries.
Now, it's uncertain what role, if any, Peterson will have with the Jaguars the rest of the season.
His potential benching also could divide a locker room that's struggling to cope with losing its run-the-ball, stop-the-run identity that made Jacksonville one of the most physical teams in the league.
The Jaguars have lost two straight and three of their past four. They are trying to avoid becoming the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games to winless teams (Cincinnati and Detroit) this late in the season.
"Hopefully it will light a fire under us, hopefully it will spark us to go out and play better, to win some games and right the ship," Hayward said.
"Guys are going to miss him, but it won't affect morale as far as bringing energy to the game," Taylor said.
Added Jones-Drew: "It's [Del Rio's] decision, and we have to live with it."
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.