Jaguars trying to move on after Byron Leftwich's stunning release Print
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Monday, 03 September 2007 12:14
NFL Headline News

 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -When running back Fred Taylor walked into Jacksonville's locker room Monday, he expected to see Byron Leftwich's former space empty.
No chance. First-round draft pick Reggie Nelson had already settled into the spot.
``I was like, 'Damn, somebody's in it already,''' Taylor said.
While the Jaguars are ready to move on after Leftwich's release, some players are still trying to regroup following the biggest and most stunning decision in coach Jack Del Rio's tenure.
``I was frustrated,'' Taylor said. ``Byron getting cut further confirmed that this is a dog-eat-dog business. We're living in the belly of the beast and sometimes that beast has to regurgitate. That's what happened. It's tough.''
A few players refused to comment on the team's decision to sever ties with Leftwich after four injury-filled seasons.
Linebacker Mike Peterson swiped his finger and thumb across his mouth to signify his lips were sealed. Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud would only answer questions about this weekend's opponent, Tennessee.
``When something like that happens, it's something that you can't even put into words,'' receiver Matt Jones said. ``When it happens that late and nobody sees it coming, you can't even describe it.''
The Jaguars announced Friday they had decided to part ways with Leftwich. Unable to find someone to trade with, they released him a day later.
The move saved Jacksonville $5.145 million against the 2007 salary cap, but it also created numerous questions about the timing, the motivation and the effect it will have on the team.
The timing raised the most eyebrows. If Del Rio had any inkling that Leftwich wasn't the guy, then why not make the move in the offseason and let backup David Garrard get as many repetitions as possible with the new offense and with the starters?
Or at the very least, why not tell Leftwich he was competing for the job?
Neither happened, and the Jaguars changed starting quarterbacks nine days before the season opener, which surprised nearly everyone in the locker room.
``I didn't see it coming. No way, no how,'' Taylor said. ``I needed one of those telescopes that goes to Mars.''
Del Rio's motivation also was questioned.
Was the move the culmination of four years of frustration from watching Leftwich sit out so many games? Or did it have something to do with the strained relationship between Leftwich and Del Rio?
The two hardly spoke because Leftwich thought Del Rio never handled any quarterback situation properly, and Del Rio believed Leftwich lied to him several times about his health.
Taylor had another theory.
``Byron was in an uphill climb from Day 1,'' Taylor said. ``A lot of people around here were sort of anti-Byron. They never got over the (Mark) Brunell situation.''
Leftwich replaced Brunell early in the 2003 season. Brunell, who holds just about every passing record in team history, was traded a few months later.
Now, it's Garrard's turn to replace Leftwich.
Several players embraced the switch, supporting Del Rio's claim that Garrard's mobility gives the team an added dimension that could help win more games.
``Whatever's going to help us win games, that's my preference,'' receiver Ernest Wilford said. ``Obviously, coach thought David was a better fit for this team. That's who we've got to rock and roll with.''
Added receiver Dennis Northcutt: ``Your focus is winning football games. Everything else, when it comes, knock it off the shoulder and keep going. We can't have nothing distracting us. We have to keep our focus and move forward, no matter what happens.''
The Jaguars do believe they will get past Leftwich's release with time, and, maybe more quickly, with wins.
``It's like a high school girlfriend (dumping you),'' Taylor said. ``The initial shock might get you, but eventually you get over it.''
 

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