Jags cite Bracken's torn calf muscle as reason
And this time, it's for keeps.
Citing a torn calf muscle that kept Brackens off the practice field for the past two weeks and sidelined him for both of the Jags' preseason contests, the team on Sunday put an end to his eight-year tenure in Jacksonville, and possibly to his NFL career.
"Tony Brackens has made an impact, left a footprint and established a standard here that will stand for a very long time," Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said. "He is one of the best players who lined up on defense for the Jaguars over the first nine years of the franchise."
Brackens, 29, was first released in March for salary cap considerations. He was subsequently re-signed to a one-year deal that included a $300,000 signing bonus, a base salary of $1.025 million, and the opportunity to earn more through incentives.
But as a vested veteran, Brackens would have been entitled to his entire base salary if he was on the club's opening day roster. And since the calf injury precluded coach Jack Del Rio and his staff from being able to adequately evaluate Brackens, and assess his ability to help the team in 2004, the issue became one of economics as well as football skill.
"It was a business decision I understood," Brackens said during a conference call. "It would be hard for me to come in and compete for a spot if I'm not going [to practice]. I feel good, I've been working hard. My leg is feeling a lot a better. Hopefully somebody will pick me up."
It is believed that Brackens was scheduled to return to the field this week but, even if that was the case, the window of opportunity for evaluating him would have been short. Del Rio apprised Brackens of the team's decision in a Sunday morning meeting.
"Tony was as classy and professional as ever," Del Rio said in a statement. "I wished him well and wanted him to know that I appreciate all that he has done for this team."
Beset by severe knee problems the last several years, Brackens had not played an entire 16-game season since 2000, and in the last few campaigns has been forced to curtail his practice time. But he bounced back from a microfracture procedure on his left knee and an appendectomy to start 15 games in 2003 and record six sacks.
Jacksonville released Brackens on March 2 because he was due a $1 million roster bonus and carried a 2004 base salary of $5.5 million. In fact, the Jacksonville salary cap for '04 includes $7.05 million in dead money for Brackens because of his release. He then re-signed after flirting with offers from a few other teams.
Not only a natural pass rusher with innate closing speed, Brackens was a playmaker capable of creating turnovers, as evidenced by his 27 career forced fumbles. His six sacks and 30 pressures in 2003 were team highs and he forced one fumble.
For his career, the former University of Texas star, a second-round pick in 1996, has 469 tackles and a franchise-record 55 sacks. His best season came in 1999, when he posted 12 sacks. He played in 107 games and had 75 starts.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
Information from The Associated Press was also used in this report.
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