|Stroud returns with something to prove to Jaguars|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 10 September 2008 12:52|
It often worked.
When he returns Sunday to the place where he spent the previous seven seasons, he'll be in a much different role.
The Jaguars discarded the three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle in March, trading him to Buffalo for two second-day draft picks. Although Stroud downplayed his homecoming, his former teammates believe he wants to prove that Jacksonville made a mistake.
``It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know he's going to be motivated,'' Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer said. ``He feels like he should still be here and he wants to show he can still play this game at a very high level, a Pro Bowl level.''
Stroud did that last week against Seattle.
pener, a 34-10 victory. He broke through double teams, manhandled single blocks, altered Seattle's ability to run and pass, and essentially looked every bit like the guy who used to dominate the line of scrimmage for the Jaguars.
``I feel good,'' Stroud said Wednesday. ``I'm healthy, and it's just a matter of going out and playing now.''
A first-round pick in 2001 from Georgia, Stroud had 322 tackles and 15 1/2 sacks his first four years in the league and was the cornerstone of coach Jack Del Rio's defense.
Football was easy for him back then. He didn't have to spend a lot of time conditioning, lifting weights or preparing for games. But that changed with a string of injuries.
Although he started every game in 2005, he spent most of the year battling ankle, knee and groin injuries. It showed, too. He had 66 tackles and one sack - his lowest totals since his rookie season.
He hoped to rebound the following year, but he injured his right ankle in practice just before the opener and never fully recovered. He missed five games and finished with 34 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. He underwent micro-fracture surgery in January 2007 to repair a hole in his ankle cartilage.
ion from the ankle surgery.
He returned late in the year, but almost immediately re-injured his ankle and was placed on injured reserve.
It ended his season and his tenure with the Jaguars.
Del Rio told Stroud the team wanted to go in a different direction and gave him permission to seek a trade. Stroud visited Buffalo in March, and the teams worked out a deal a few days later.
``I've got no hard feelings,'' Stroud said. ``It was a decision they all made collectively. They felt my production had been down in the past few years and they wanted to go in another direction and I was told to seek a trade. That's the business part of it.''
But the thing that hurt more than anything else were Del Rio's comments. The coach said he didn't believe Stroud would ever be able to get back to where he was before the ankle injury.
``I was taken back a little bit, of course,'' Stroud said. ``I felt like that was kind of an unfair comment, especially about one of your players. But I had major surgery, so that may have been how he felt. But I didn't feel like that, and that's the only thing that matters. I was willing to go out and work hard and get myself back to the level that I was playing at and potentially trying to play better than that.''
The Jaguars (0-1) expect to have their hands full with Stroud on Sunday, especially since they will have three backups starting along the offensive line.
``He's probably feeling pretty good about going up against a patchwork group,'' Del Rio said.
Added linebacker Mike Peterson: ``He's probably going to be jacked to the max. That's what I'm expecting.''