Jacksonville Jaguars Enter Arresting Season
With organized team activities now in the rearview mirror, the NFL enters a period of down time before players return for training camp.
This dead zone is usually the point on the calendar where teams around the league collectively hold their breath hoping that all players find recreation activities that do not end with a booking photo and police report as the only souvenir.
Few teams in the league have encountered more anxiety than the Jaguars have in recent years. From traffic violations to violent confrontations, the Jaguars have seen their fair share of headaches to contend with, as players are left to their own devices for several weeks before they are mandated to report for training camp.
This is the time where players like Matt Jones found time to hop in the back seat of an SUV in a darkened Arkansas alley to cut up his cocaine with a Footlocker credit card.
Reggie Williams was cited for driving carelessly, and, upon further investigation, a small amount of wacky weed was found in his car.
Brian Williams took his Bentley for a spin along Bay Street with a female companion and allegedly drifted from his lane, forcing a police cruiser to take evasive action in front of the Police Memorial Building. He was charged with a DUI.
The case fell apart later, but not before he had issued an apology and the team was smeared in the local media.
Gerald Sensabaugh tried to demonstrate his Evel Knievel prowess by hot dogging with his motorcycle and wound up with a careless driving arrest. He also was snagged by the same local yokel police from his home town for carrying a concealed weapon during another traffic stop.
Those charges were later dropped, but, again, the police report was plastered all over the local media painting the Jaguars as a team out of control.
One player was arrested for driving under the influence after falling asleep at a fast food drive-thru while still behind the wheel of his vehicle.
Khalif Barnes was arrested for a DUI and subsequently caught on tape blasting the city of Jacksonville as a hick town full of racists.
Barnes later drove his car into a tree in his neighborhood, sprinted home, then tried to claim the car was stolen before changing his story to avoid being arrested for filing a false police report.
Richard Collier was cut down last year during this same time frame. He sat in his car waiting for a woman he had met at a bar to change so that they could hit the town in the early morning hours in Riverside.
While some of the incidents that have occurred over the years are certainly minor transgressions, they are placed under a magnifying glass because they are on a bigger stage with brighter lights, thanks to the NFL brand.
The Jaguars have been muddied up in recent years because of the inordinate number of arrests compared with other teams.
Only the Cincinnati Bengals have managed to earn more court docket frequent flier mileage over the past six years. They get more publicity for their arrests because they are a more prominent franchise, but the little engine that could in Jacksonville has not fallen short due to a lack of effort.
The mantra is the same every year when the players are sent on their way at the end of OTAs: Stay out of trouble.
Some get the message, but there are those special few who slap on their headphones and ignore the annual speech. The end result usually winds up providing fodder for the local fish wrapper and talk radio.
Jack Del Rio must flinch any time his phone rings during this stretch of the calendar.
With all of the changes taking place at One Stadium Place, the focus has been on removing the potential for distractions. More importantly, Gene Smith and Del Rio have been intent on keeping the Jaguars out of the local media with anything but good news about charity work within the community.
The players who created most of the turmoil in recent years are either currently out of the league or struggling to stick around with other teams.
The Jaguars have focused on character as a top priority in 2009. It remains to be seen if this approach will keep them out of the headlines. Less than a week into the dead zone, they have managed to avoid having their players pop up on any police reports.
Less than a week in, the new and improved Jaguars appear to be on track. If they can dodge trouble for another 39 days, the team can officially claim their first victory of 2009.
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