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Coming home

Posted Oct 19, 2011

WR Mike Sims-Walker: 'You don't get many opportunities like this'

This was one wake-up call Mike Sims-Walker didn’t mind a bit.

This was early Tuesday, a day after Sims-Walker had been released by the St. Louis Rams. His cell phone rang, and he saw the 904 area code. He then saw the next three digits and knew:  the Jaguars were calling.

He didn’t let it go to voice mail.

“I almost hung it up trying to answer it,” Sims-Walker said early Wednesday afternoon as the Jaguars (1-5) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at EverBank Field Monday at 8:30 p.m.

Instead, he picked up, and heard Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith say what he hoped to hear – that the Jaguars, just months after not signing him in free agency, wanted him to return.

 “I was like, ‘Ye-e-e-s-s-s-s-s,’’’ he said.

For Sims-Walker, the call meant not only another opportunity in the NFL, but an opportunity with the team he said is still his NFL home.

“I definitely call it coming home,” said Sims-Walker, who caught 11 passes for 139 yards in four games with the Rams. “This is the place that drafted me. This is a place that put a lot of trust in me and believed in me for so long. We had some good times and bad times, but at the end of the day, we miss each other. No question about it.”

The reason for the Jaguars’ call was obvious.

The Jaguars through six games have struggled at the receiver position. Leading receiver Mike Thomas has caught 27 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown, and the other starter, Jason Hill, has 14 receptions for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

Rookie wide receiver Cecil Shorts has yet to catch a pass, with Jarett Dillard catching five passes for 51 yards and Chastin West catching one for 16 yards.

That’s 47 receptions as a group for 607 yards and three touchdowns, which is one reason the Jaguars are 32nd in the NFL in total offense, 32nd in passing offense and averaging 12 points a game.

“No question, I’d check on the guys and call them and see the vibe,” Sims-Walker said. “You’re always going to be keep some kind of relationship. It changed, but it didn’t change much. Everything’s still positive. (Jaguars Head Coach) Jack (Del Rio) being Jack—you couldn’t ask for a better coach in the league.

“I’m just here to work. I don’t want to put expectations on it. My main thing is just to turn this thing around, get a win. That’s the No. 1 goal right now. Winning makes everything different.”

Sims-Walker, a third-round draft pick by the Jaguars in 2007, played in 38 games in four seasons for the Jaguars, starting 28.

He has 133 career receptions for 1,787 yards with 14 touchdowns, with all of the touchdowns coming with the Jaguars.  He led the Jaguars in 2009 with a career-high 63 receptions for 869 yards and seven touchdowns and finished last season with 43 receptions for 562 yards and seven touchdowns.

The situation Sims-Walker enters is different than the one he left in one major aspect:

Whereas David Garrard was the Jaguars’ starting quarterback from 2007-2010, rookie Blaine Gabbert is now the starter. Sims-Walker introduced himself to Gabbert Wednesday, and the two will practice together for the first time Thursday.

Sims-Walker said he watched Gabbert closely when the Rams and Jaguars played in the preseason finale. Sims-Walker left the game after the first quarter, while Gabbert played the entire second half.

“I watched him,” Sims-Walker said. “He has a cannon. He makes all the throws. He’s a strong-armed guy, and I’m looking forward to being able to go out and work with him.”

Sims-Walker said he has no resentment toward the Jaguars for not re-signing him in the off-season, and he said overall, he has grown since his time with the team.

 “I’m a better person, better player, better man,” Sims-Walker said. “I’m more professional. I’m a totally different person than the guy they drafted. I’m more mature. I know how to work. I’ve been in the system, and I know how to conduct myself, how to work harder.

“We didn’t leave on bad terms. There were no bridges burned. We just didn’t come to an agreement. It wasn’t anything bad. It wasn’t anything against one another. I just wanted to see what was out there for me and try something different.”

Now that he has, Sims-Walker said he is thankful for the chance for something familiar. He said he knows an opportunity when he sees it and more importantly when it’s time to take advantage of an opportunity.

That time, he said, is now.

“Over time, going through what I’ve been through and seeing a lot of things in this league, I have a better grasp of it,” Sims-Walker said. “I’m hungry. I still feel young, and I still feel like there’s a mission to complete. I’m here to work. I want to get restarted. The season’s still young. We have a chance to do some good things. I want to get at it.

“You don’t get too many opportunities like this, and you definitely want to take advantage of them.”

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