This is where
So, while Mathis was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday, and although he is still very much in the rehabilitation process from a season-ending anterior cruciate knee ligament tear sustained last November, he said he never had much doubt.
He wanted to be in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars wanted him to stay.
Mathis said that meant beyond the normal back-and-forth of negotiations he never was overly worried that what happened Thursday would happen.
“I’m not going anywhere – no chance,” Mathis said Thursday, shortly after signing what he said is a one-year deal to remain in Jacksonville that reportedly contains incentives.
“You never know going into it, but I had talked to (Jaguars General Manager) Gene Smith going into it. I had definitely expressed that I wanted to be here, and he expressed that he wanted me here.”
Mathis, a second-round selection by Jacksonville in the 2003 NFL Draft, said the negotiation process was simple and not “hard-fought.”
“Both sides wanted the same thing,” he said. “When you want the same thing, it’s easy to come to a decision.”
Mathis, who played his first nine seasons under head coach Jack Del Rio, said that even considering a change in head coaching staff he never doubted a return. He said he has a good relationship with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the coordinator since 2009 and interim coach the last five games last season, and that he has had “good vibes” in his early conversations with new Head Coach Mike Mularkey.
Mathis said he might have worried more had the Jaguars hired a defensive-oriented coach. Mularkey’s background is as an offensive coordinator, and the plan is for Tucker – also the assistant head coach – to essentially continue running the same defense as last season’s No. 6-ranked unit.
“I was always hopefully, always faithful, that it would end up good,” Mathis said. “This was my desire. I think I’ve always expressed that and I don’t think I’ve ever shown otherwise. I’m blessed to have the cards play out in my favor.”
Mathis, who started nine games before tearing his ACL in a November 13 victory at Indianapolis, said although his off-season would have been different without the injury – “I wouldn’t have been on crutches for four weeks,” he said – he believes he would have remained with the Jaguars with or without the injury.
“I wouldn’t think me being here standing in front of you would be any different,” Mathis told a small group of reporters at EverBank Field Thursday morning. “I would still have been singing the same tune – that I wanted to be here.”
Mathis, a Jacksonville native who attended Englewood High School and Bethune-Cookman, said he is “blessed” to have played his entire career in Jacksonville, and wanted to continue to do. He said his focus now is to continue preparing for next season.
An ACL typically takes about nine months to heal barring setbacks. Mathis said he has had no setbacks, and he recently began running on the knee. He said he is working as quickly as he can to “beat all odds and to get as healthy as quick as possible.” While he said he has yet to do any football-type work at anything near full speed, he said he is ahead of schedule and expects to participate fully in training camp.
“I don’t think that will be a question,” Mathis said. “Unless the Lord has other plans for me, that will be a full go. With no setbacks, I’ll be ready.”
Mathis said after consulting with doctors, he opted to use the patella tendon from his knee to repair the ACL rather than a cadaver tendon because it’s a stronger graft.
“Right now, the graft is fine,” he said. “It’s all about me building my quad muscle and making everything around the knee stronger. The knee is strong.”
And as for the future, Mathis said it’s his hope that it’s not only an extended one, but one that plays out in the only place he ever really has wanted to be.
“What we decided on was the best for both of us,” Mathis said. “Prayfully, I’ll stay healthy, and we’ll be doing another interview next year.”