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Disgruntled Darius skips Jags' mini-camp

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 29, 2005) -- Disgruntled safety Donovin Darius skipped Jacksonville's mini-camp, which drew criticism and a fine from coach Jack Del Rio.

Darius has been unhappy since February when the Jaguars designated him their franchise player for a third consecutive year. He publicly criticized the team, then got permission from owner Wayne Weaver to seek a trade.

But the Jaguars have fielded few offers, leaving Darius with little choice but to play another season in Jacksonville.

He was in a similar situation last year.

The hard-hitting safety complained about the franchise tag a year ago and received approval from Del Rio to sit out mini-camp to avoid being a distraction. Del Rio refused to give Darius the same deal this time around, though.

"This year, I asked him to be here," Del Rio said. "He's declined, and that's his right, and he'll pay the fine."

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 that guaranteed him a $4.97 million salary this fall.

Nonetheless, he immediately sought a trade.

He sent e-mails to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and to The Miami Herald, campaigning for a deal to those cities.

Although the Vikings initially showed interest, the Jaguars turned down both of their trade offers. Minnesota since has signed former Green Bay safety Darren Sharper.

Darius' pricey salary and his unsigned status beyond this season might have diminished interest from other teams; the Jaguars said they received no calls last weekend during the 2005 NFL Draft from anyone interested in trading for Darius.

A first-round pick by the Jaguars in 1998, Darius has started 103 games and recorded an average of 80 tackles per 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.

Although Darius skipped the team's voluntary workouts and now the first mandatory session, Del Rio believes he will stay in shape and report for training camp in July.

"We do know that once he shows, he shows up in shape ready to play," Del Rio said.

AP NEWS
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