(Aug. 22)—The Jaguars career of arguably the greatest defensive player in the team's history has come to an end. Tony Brackens was waived by the team today, following another training camp of missed practices and uncertainty about his ability to overcome injury.
A torn calf muscle forced Brackens to miss two consecutive weeks of training camp practices and both of the Jaguars' first two preseason games. Brackens had just returned to practice in week one of training camp when the injury occurred. He was expected to return to practice this week, but training camp will end on Tuesday.
"I met with him this morning. Due to him not being able to work, we would not get the look we needed. I explained that our roster is stronger and decisions have to be made. I felt it was the right thing to do, once we made that decision," coach Jack Del Rio told reporters following this morning's practice.
In another personnel move today, the Jaguars cut journeyman kicker Jeff Chandler, who missed two field goal attempts in Friday night's preseason win over Tampa Bay. Chandler is a Jacksonville native who played at Florida and was drafted in 2002 by San Francisco.
"We appreciate the way he worked. The pressure he put on himself; he was his own worst enemy," Del Rio said of Chandler.
The calf injury that forced Brackens out of practice left the Jaguars in a difficult position. The one-year contract Brackens signed with the team in June guaranteed Brackens' $1.025 million salary this year if he was on the team's final roster. That meant the team would use training camp to decide if Brackens was recovered from his offseason knee surgery, and could be expected to help the team address its need at defensive end. Brackens' inability to avoid injury in this training camp made him too much of a risk.
He had been waived in March, for the purpose of expiring his remaining bonus amortization on this year's salary cap. When he re-signed with the team in June, Brackens was paid a $300,000 signing bonus that was, in effect, a training camp tryout fee.
"Coming back from what he did (in 2003), I just thought that was really remarkable. You have to be a tough guy to fight through what he did last year," Del Rio said, referring to Brackens' recovery from major knee surgery in 2002 and emergency appendectomy surgery in late June of '03. Brackens led the Jaguars with six sacks last season.
"He said he wanted to continue to play," Del Rio reported. "We move forward."
Brackens holds 12 team records and is in the top seven in eight other categories. The 6-4, 267-pound defensive end is the Jaguars' all-time sack leader with 55 career sacks in his eight seasons with the Jaguars. He led the team in sacks last season for the fourth time in five years. He had a team-record 12 sacks in 1999 and 11 in 2001.
"We are saying goodbye to one of the best players to ever wear a Jaguars uniform," Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said. "Tony Brackens has made an impact, left a footprint and established a standard here that will stand for a very long time. He has been one of the best players who lined up on defense for the Jaguars over the first nine years of this franchise."
Brackens, a second-round pick in 1996, was a Pro-Bowl starter in 1999 and was the second alternate in 2001. He also owns team records for forced fumbles in a career with 28, forced fumbles in a single season with eight and career fumble recoveries with 13, and he shares the record for career takeaways with 18. Brackens has had seven or more sacks in five of his eight NFL seasons, and he had at least one sack in a team-record and league-high eight consecutive games in '01.
The release of Chandler left the kicking chores to rookie Josh Scobee, a fifth-round pick from Louisiana Tech. But Scobee's hold on the job is considered tenuous. The team is clearly scouring the ranks of available kickers, should Scobee fail in the team's next game, against the Packers this Friday at Alltel Stadium.
"We'll let Scobee get the work and see how he responds this week. We'll continue to monitor the availability of anyone else who can compete for (the job)," Del Rio said.
Scobee missed on a 45-yard field goal attempt against the Bucs. He converted just one of three attempts in the team's first preseason game, and his kickoffs were short.
This morning's practice produced some high moments for the offense, but it was plagued, again, by far too many dropped passes, especially by tight end Todd Yoder. The most impressive pass of the morning went from quarterback Byron Leftwich to wide receiver Cortez Hankton in the far left side of the end zone.
Running back Joe Smith (ankle) practiced for the first time since early in the first week of training camp.
The Jaguars are to practice at seven p.m. this evening, will conduct two workouts on Monday and one on Tuesday morning before breaking camp.