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A surreal day


Early Tuesday, no way did Paul Posluszny expect a day like this.

Maurice Jones-Drew didn't see it coming, either.

Posluszny, the Jaguars' starting middle linebacker, and Jones-Drew – their two-time Pro Bowl running back – were among several players who spoke to the media late Tuesday morning shortly after major news broke around the organization on several fronts.

"It's a crazy situation, for sure," Posluszny said, adding, "Not what we expected when we came to work today, that's for sure. A lot of crazy stuff, big-time developments going on and we just say, 'Wow, I can't believe we're in this situation.'"

How crazy? Consider:

Even before a noon news conference, news was breaking that:

  • Jack Del Rio, the team's head coach since 2003, had been fired by Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver. The Jaguars named Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker the interim coach.

*General Manager Gene Smith, whose contract was set to expire after the season, had been given a three-year contract extension.

*Weaver, the owner of the team since its 1993 inception and a man instrumental in bringing the NFL to Jacksonville, had agreed to sell the team to Illinois-based businessman Shahid Khan.

During the Jaguars' open locker room period, most of the details involving the sale were not yet known, and players mostly addressed the departure of Del Rio, the promotion of Tucker and the decision to extend Smith's contract.

 "It's a sad day," Jones-Drew, a Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons and the NFL's second-leading rusher this season, said of Del Rio's departure. "It sucks. I wish we could have played better and I wish we could have done more, and we didn't, so that's what happens."

Posluszny, who signed with the Jaguars as a free agent early in training camp from Buffalo, called Del Rio's departure, "a tough situation."

"I feel bad for Coach Del Rio, because he gave it everything he had," Posluszny said. "We came up short on the field, and he's ultimately paying the price for that. You never want to see a head coach let go like that, because we have a lot of respect for him – a great guy, a great coach.

"We'll continue on. We'll continue to fight and finish out the season the best way we know how."

Del Rio spoke briefly to the team early during a team meeting informing the players of the move.

"He handled himself with complete class, and that's him through and through," Posluszny said. "It was a tough situation, but he handled himself in a very respectable manner."

Posluszny said Del Rio spoke of his time with the team.

"He said unfortunately, he didn't win a championship, and so it was time for a change, time for someone else to have a shot," Poslusnzy said.

Polsuszny said of Tucker, "He's a great defensive coordinator.

"He brings a lot of fire and a lot of passion," Posluszny said. "I know he'll be able to take that from his defensive coordinator position and what he's done there and project that through the whole team. We're excited about that. He's the right guy to do it.

"We feel he can definitely lead us in the right direction."

Posluszny said with Tucker, while not overly vocal, "what you see with him and what he says – that's him. That's very true to him. He doesn't try to put on a show or an act. He's very true with the way he represents himself and the things he says."

Jaguars running back and special teams ace Montell Owens and Posluszny each said the retention of Smith will give the franchise needed stability.

 "That's exciting," Owens said. "He's one of the best at what he does. He wants to win a championship and his actions show it."

Posluszny, who said the retention of Smith is a great sign "that we have some source of stability," said Smith deserves credit for making the moves that helped improve the Jaguars' defense from 28th in the NFL to fourth this season.

"He does a great job of evaluating talent and making the right decisions with guys," Posluszny said. "If you just look at what he has done with our defense this year, bringing in the type of guys he brought in and how we were able to come together so quickly, that's all because of him. He's done a great job with that and I feel he has the ability to do that for the entire team as a whole.

"He just needs some time and some drafts and he'll have the ability to do that."

Jones-Drew said while the Jaguars are 3-8 and were eliminated from the AFC South chase this past week with a loss to Houston, the team has given effort throughout the season.

"He didn't lose the locker room," Jones-Drew said of Del Rio. "A lot of guys were upset. He's a players' coach. Everything he asked we did to the best of our ability. There was no lack of effort out there while we were playing.

"There was a lack of execution, but there was no lack of effort. I just feel like we let him down."

Posluszny, like Jones-Drew, said the focus for players will be on the final five games of the season, including Monday night's game at EverBank Field against the San Diego Chargers.

"The thing is, things are going to happen and we're going to have to be able to just go on and control what we can control and proceed as normal as we can," Posluszny said. "We still have a season to finish out. We still have games to play. We have a big Monday Night game to prepare for.

"It's tough, because we still have a lot of distractions and a lot of crazy things going on, but for today, that's part of our business."

Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis, like Jones-Drew, joined the Jaguars in 2006 and has spent his entire career playing for Del Rio.

"I didn't wake up this morning knowing that was going to happen," he said. "Obviously, that was an unfortunate situation. Jack ahs been here my whole six years. He always shot it to me straight, always treated everybody like men, always provided us with a vision. It was up to us to go out there and execute a vision.

"But this is the NFL. Unfortunate happens sometimes."

Lewis, like Jones-Drew and other players, thanked Del Rio for helping him start his NFL career.

"I have a lot of love and a lot of respect for Jack," Lewis said. "He has a part of all of us being in this locker room right now. I do owe that to Jack. I wish him well."

Lewis said Del Rio had told players before the team's November 6 bye week "not to worry about what everybody else is talking about.

"He said he was going to continue to coach us and work us hard like he was going to be here, and don't worry about everything else," Lewis said. "He told us, 'The coaches are going to coach and the players are going to play.' He kept it professional and gave us his all every day.

"It's not a situation where we had a lot of players counting down the day for our coach to get fired. Jack has always taken care of us. He's always straight up, always kept it real. There's nothing but love and respect for him."

Also around the Jaguars' locker room:

*Lewis addressed his continued struggles this season. After making the Pro Bowl last season, he has 27 passes for 281 yards and no touchdowns. He also has had several dropped touchdowns this season, including one this past Sunday when he was wide open in the end zone. Lewis said Tuesday he tripped and lost his balance Sunday just before the ball arrived. "I'm going through a tough patch right now, and I plan to see myself out of it," Lewis said. "I work hard. That's never been the problem. Like I said before, all of the athletes I looked to growing up didn't have great games every game, I believe in that. I believe in the process. I'll continue to work and see my self through it." Lewis added, "This whole season hasn't been what I wanted."

*Owens said he doesn't expect the Jaguars' focus to change in the final five weeks: "You can't ride an emotional rollercoaster and play this game. That's one thing we do. We don't play games based on circumstances. We give everything we have regardless of what our record is."

*Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert on a rookie season that has a lockout, two starting quarterback changes, a change in coaches and a change in ownership: "It's just a very unique scenario I've been put in, but you've just got to do your best. I've got to do my best to learn from it and use the experiences to help me down the line."

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