I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but there is something fishy going on with the Jaguars and Jerry Porter.
Here’s are the facts:
This off-season, the Jaguars signed Porter to a free agent contract worth $30 million with $10 million guaranteed.
Porter had been criticized in Oakland for his attitude, but the Jaguars thought that a change of scenery was all that Porter would need.
In the off-season practices, Porter looked great. He was the most polished wide receiver in a Jaguars uniform since Jimmy Smith’s retirement.
Porter pulled a hamstring during an off-season practice. That led to hamstring surgery.
Porter missed all of training camp and the preseason as he recovered from the surgery.
He made his Jaguars debut in week four, catching one pass for six yards against the Houston Texans.
He’s played in every game since, but has not recorded a reception.
Porter has been standoffish with the local media and was quoted by the Florida Times-Union as saying “Who’s made a big play when the ball ain’t thrown to him? So throw the ball to me. I’ll catch it. That’s it.”
Sunday in Denver, Porter was in the game only briefly then, for some reason, he was benched.
That benching, of course, brought questions Monday. Jack Del Rio holds two press conferences, one for the electronic media (radio, TV, internet video) and another for the print and written word internet reporters.
I asked Del Rio about Porter several times. Here is the exchange:
“I think we’ve talked about it enough,” Del Rio said. “We know where he is. I guess anybody that draws a big paycheck or is drafted high is going to going to have to face scrutiny. I understand that. I’m not going to sit here and try to discuss something about an individual. I want to focus on the team. It was a great team victory [Sunday].”
Okay, clearly, Del Rio is dodging here. But he’s also giving an indication as to what the problem might be. When he talked about Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard and Brian Williams and others earlier in the press conference, he didn’t avoid the subjects because he was talking about individuals. The difference is that Del Rio views those guys as being part of the team effort. It does not appear to be the case with Porter.
I asked if Porter was healthy. Del Rio said that he was as healthy as he’d been in a while. Del Rio continued.
“I assure you that my entire goal as a head coach is to do what I can…to go play each game to win. That’s all I care about,” Del Rio said. “Where a guy was happened to be selected or how much a guy happens to be making, those are not issues that I have to concern myself with.”
Del Rio is a player’s coach in the sense that he rarely throws a player under the bus in the media. But he came very close a few minutes later with the print media when he (according to the Associated Press) said “he’s just not a major part of our plans right now,” Del Rio said. “He’s been practicing. As a team we’ve been forced to move on, and we’re not just going to force him back in the flow.”
Porter did not have a sterling reputation as a selfless team-first player in Oakland and it appears that the Jaguars are starting to find out why.
Here’s the rub. Mike Walker has an infection in his knee and Matt Jones could potentially face a suspension for violating the league’s player code of conduct after his arrest on cocaine possession charges. If that happens, the Jaguars would have to turn to Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt and Troy Williamson, who have a combined 24 receptions. That’s six fewer than the Jaguars leading pass catcher, Jones.
So at some point, the Jaguars might need Porter. The question is, do they want him?