Del Rio says linebacker Peterson's new role is as backup only

Updated: November 14, 2008, 7:58 PM ET
By Sal Paolantonio | ESPN

Mike Peterson


Jacksonville Jaguars


2008 Season Stats
Tot Solo Ast FF Sack Int
49 42 7 0 1 0
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio on Friday finally cleared up the status of veteran linebacker Mike Peterson, telling ESPN that Peterson has been permanently demoted to backup status.

"Daryl Smith is our starting middle linebacker," Del Rio said in a telephone conversation after Friday's practice, as the Jaguars got ready for the undefeated Tennessee Titans.

Peterson, in his sixth season with Jacksonville and the team's leading tackler this season, was suspended for last week's game at Detroit and fined $10,000 for insubordination after he got into an argument with Del Rio in a team meeting the week before.

Smith started in place of Peterson against the Lions and led the team with seven tackles.

Del Rio was asked if he and Peterson have reached any kind of meeting of the minds after last week's dispute.

"There will be no meetings," Del Rio said. "He has to embrace his new role on the team."

On Thursday and Friday, Peterson practiced with special teams for the first time in years.

Sal Paolantonio covers the NFL for ESPN.

Sal Paolantonio

SportsCenter correspondent / NFL reporter
Sal Paolantonio joined ESPN as a SportsCenter correspondent in August 1995, primarily reporting on the NFL. Beginning in 2004, he also served as host of NFL Match-Up, a weekly "Xs and Os" football show produced by NFL Films.