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Darius returns to practice with Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (May 17, 2005) -- Safety Donovin Darius says he is finished complaining about his situation, criticizing the Jacksonville Jaguars and seeking a trade.

He is ready to move on.

Darius practiced with the Jaguars, rejoining the team after skipping a mandatory minicamp last month and getting fined by coach Jack Del Rio.

Darius had been unhappy since the Jaguars designated him their franchise player for a third consecutive year in February. He publicly ripped the team for the decision, then got permission from owner Wayne Weaver to pursue a trade.

"This is a business. This is a short-term opportunity for us to make as much money as we can," Darius said after practice. "Our window of opportunity is a lot shorter than a lot of other careers out there. It is our job and our personal obligation to try to do whatever we can to (make money)."

The league's franchise rule allows teams to keep one player off the free-agent market in exchange for a one-year tender worth the average of the top five players at his position. If a player doesn't sign, the only way he can leave is if another team is willing to part with two first-round draft picks.

Despite his displeasure with the franchise tag, Darius signed the tender.

Nonetheless, he promptly called newspapers in Minnesota and Miami to campaign for a trade to those teams. But the Jaguars didn't get any offers they liked, leaving Darius with little choice but to play another season in Jacksonville.

"My objective all along was to get a long-term contract," Darius said. "I'm looking to play another five or seven years, so it's not about 2005. It's about 2006, 2007 and 2008.

"Whenever you look at an investment, you look at the risk versus the reward. From the player's standpoint, the risk is very high that in one season you could be hurt or you may or may not have as great a season as you did before. That's why players look for longer contracts even though they are not guaranteed."

Darius said he was "at peace" with returning to the Jaguars once he realized the Vikings weren't going to be able to trade for him.

Still, he skipped the team's voluntary offseason workouts and sat out the three-day minicamp that began April 29. He said he opted to maintain his own workout regimen instead of altering it just to be with his teammates.

"I don't feel like team camaraderie was disrupted," he said.

Del Rio agreed, but said it was better to have Darius on the field than off doing his own thing -- which the coach allowed him to do last year when Darius was in a similar situation.

"The optimum environment would be to have everyone here and everyone happy," Del Rio said. "But this is a business. There are things that come up. I try not to ever get involved in it personally. I've been on both sides of it, and I understand it. I always tell the guys there's a time to pay and a time to play. Once the season starts, there's zero tolerance for any of that kind of stuff. This is the time of year you can have some of that stuff and get it out of the way."

A first-round pick by the Jaguars in 1998, Darius has started 103 games and averaged 80 tackles a season.

He had a career-high 87 tackles and five interceptions last year. He also was fined $75,000 by the league for a vicious hit to the head of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Robert Ferguson.

"Personal issues aside, when he shows up, he's all business and a very productive football player," Del Rio said. "We're looking for him to have an even better year for us."

AP NEWS
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