Del Rio sends Peterson home two days after questioning Jags' chemistry
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars had a much different feel to their locker room Wednesday. There was no one playing dominoes, no one blaring music and no one watching television.
There was no Mike Peterson, either.
Coach Jack Del Rio sent the middle linebacker and team captain home Wednesday, two days after Del Rio questioned his team's chemistry.
It was unclear what prompted Del Rio's decision, but there was speculation it could have been because Peterson flexed his muscles following a tackle Sunday with the team trailing 21-3.
"We're working through this process seeking an appropriate conclusion," Del Rio said in a statement released after practice.
Del Rio clearly wants more from the struggling Jaguars (3-5), who are coming off consecutive losses to Cleveland and Cincinnati and fading out of the AFC playoff picture.
He reassigned at least six players to new lockers, moving offensive guys into defensive sections and vice versa. He also told the team he didn't want any distractions -- music, televisions, games -- going on in the locker room.
"There's no magic speech or words or fairy dust or anything like that," Del Rio. "That's why coaches always talk about going back to work. You have to get ready for that next opportunity, and when you get that next opportunity, play well."
Del Rio has taken away a few amenities before. But he's never shuffled around lockers or sent home one of the team's most popular players.
Peterson, voted a captain by teammates and clearly the defensive leader, leads the Jaguars with 85 tackles. But he hasn't been one of Del Rio's favorites, especially not after Peterson ripped the organization for not offering him a contract extension during the offseason.
Peterson vowed to play out the remaining year of his six-year deal and then hit the free agency market.
Del Rio could be ready to move on now. He said Wednesday that changes on the field could follow those in the locker room.
"We're going to do the things that we think we need to do to give ourselves the best opportunity to win," Del Rio said.
Players were surprised by the locker room relocations.
"It's just something different," Smith said. "A different little flavor. We're just trying to get a win. Anything for the better.
"It's nothing negative. If anybody had an answer, I think they would have done pulled that card by now. I wish we did have an answer. We wouldn't be in this spot we're in right now."
Although Del Rio has pinned the team's woes on the underachieving offensive and defensive lines, he said Monday team chemistry hasn't been anything like it was when Jacksonville finished 11-5 last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Running back Fred Taylor, another team captain, said Del Rio could be right about the on-field chemistry. But he said things in the locker room were just fine.
"We enjoy each other's company," Taylor said. "From a respect-for-each-other standpoint, the chemistry is fine. Maybe on the field, we're a little out of sync. But that's the chance you take when you release guys and contract opportunities come about for guys and they're moving on because it's such a business."
Even with the changes, Taylor said he was surprised the team has fallen so far so fast.
"We thought we assembled a good team from last year, with the nucleus of guys coming back and the young guys we brought in," he said. "I really felt like we assembled a much better team than last year. With that being said, I expect the record to be better than last year. But this is the NFL. I'm not going to fool myself. You've got to do it on Sunday, despite what you look like on paper."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press