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A great situation


He's here five years later than he originally imagined, but for Aaron Ross Wednesday, the timing wasn't what mattered.

What mattered was this:

He's getting what he called a second chance with the Jaguars – a chance to play, a chance to compete and if all goes as he hopes, a chance to start.

"I see myself coming into a great situation," Ross said Wednesday. "It was an easy decision."

Ross, a cornerback, said Wednesday he initially imagined the opportunity would come five years ago. That was the spring of 2007, when after being named the 2006 Jim Thorpe Award winner at the University of Texas he visited the Jaguars before the 2007 NFL Draft.

The visit, Ross said, went well. He expected to be selected by the Jaguars, who instead selected safety Reggie Nelson from the University of Florida. Ross was selected in the first round by the New York Giants.

Five seasons and two Super Bowls later, Ross on Wednesday officially signed what has been reported as a three-year contract potentially worth $15.3 million with the Jaguars, but when Ross met with the media Wednesday, he said the financials of the contract mattered little.

What mattered was his chance.

"It was a good opportunity to come back here," said Ross, who started in the Super Bowl for the Giants following the 2007 and 2011 seasons. "I thought I was going to be here my rookie year, but they needed a safety instead of a corner. Now, they need a corner."

The Jaguars needed a corner because although Derek Cox is entrenched as a starter at one cornerback position, veteran Rashean Mathis – a starter since 2003 and a 2006 Pro Bowl selection – sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season and missed the final seven games of the season.

Mathis recently signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars, and it's likely that Ross and Mathis will compete to start opposite Cox.

"I'm here to help," Ross said. "That's the main thing. I have some hardware (Super Bowl rings) behind me, so guys may listen to things I have to say. If that opportunity (to start) comes, I'm more than willing to accept it."

Ross, who also visited Cincinnati and Washington in free agency, said while his goal is to start a team needs cornerbacks beyond the top two players on the depth chart. He entered last season's training camp as a reserve, and moved into the starting lineup when Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas sustained a season-ending knee injury.

The Jaguars had similar issues last season, with Cox and Mathis each finishing the season on injured reserve during a season in which the Jaguars' secondary – particularly the cornerback position – was hit hard by season-ending injuries.

"A corner can go down in the blink of an eye, and today's offensive schemes are three-to-five wides," Ross said. "You need three or four – or maybe five – quality corners you can depend on."

Ross (6-feet, 197 pounds) played in 65 games with 41 starts for the Giants. He started 25 games at left corner, 15 at right and one at safety. Although he has played in at least 15 games in four of five seasons, he missed much of the 2009 season with a torn hamstring, and said he was disappointed with his performance in 2010 coming off that injury.

He played in all 16 games in 2011 for the first time in his career and matched his career-high with 15 starts.  He produced a career-best 59 tackles, four interceptions and 12 passes defensed and started all four postseason games for the Giants. 

"I felt like I was getting better each week, week in and week out (last season)," he said. "Hopefully, I can continue to play top-notch football."

Despite playing well last season, Ross said he wasn't surprised to leave the Giants. Not only did the team re-sign Thomas this off-season, Corey Webster starts on the other side, and they drafted Prince Amukamara in the first round last off-season.

"They have four quality corners," he said. "There was pretty much no room for me anymore. I decided to go elsewhere."

Ross agreed to terms with Jacksonville without visiting the Jaguars during free agency. He said he had been with his wife, Olympic sprinter Sanya Richards, at the recent World Championships in Turkey when free agency began, and when he returned he immediately visited Washington and Cincinnati.

When the Jaguars called, he said the deal was the right one.

"I didn't realize I was stressed until I got the call from Jacksonville to come here," he said. "The whole time I felt at ease. The process wasn't too hard. It was a quick process and I didn't feel the tension until I said yes to the commitment, then a weight dropped off me."

Ross said that weight had to do with being comfortable in a familiar place, and getting a second chance in a place he thought might be the right fit all along.

"We had a great connection my rookie year and I felt really strong that I would be here," he said "My mind was set on coming here during the draft. They needed a safety that year. They need a corner. Now, I'm here."

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