Del Rio counters Fisher

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Call it the "Del Rio Code." Sounds like a good book.

The Jaguars coach made reference to the possibility of a coded message tucked inside Titans coach Jeff Fisher's acerbic remarks of last week. Fisher said he hoped the Jaguars would lose in Houston so the Titans could keep the Jaguars out of the playoffs by beating them in this Sunday's regular-season finale.

"I just don't know what to make of the comments he makes about Jacksonville. He either has a buddy here he's talking to through code or something. I'm not sure I get it. I would think it would be out of character for a guy who's been a successful coach as long as he has. It almost sounds desperate," Del Rio told reporters at Monday's press conference.

Del Rio declined to explain what me meant by his use of the word "code." It may have just been a playful reference to the endless stream of barbs Fisher has taken at the Jaguars, dating back to Tom Coughlin's days as the team's head coach. When asked if Fisher harbored animosity toward him, Del Rio said: "I don't think so, we're fellow Trojans."

The issue of keeping the Jaguars out of the playoffs was silenced this past Saturday when the Jaguars clinched a wild-card berth with their win in Houston. The Jaguars will host the Titans this Sunday in a game that will provide little more than a playoff warm-up for the Jaguars.

"It's important to build momentum for the playoffs. We have an opportunity to beat a rival and get our 12th win of the season," Del Rio said of this Sunday's game.

The Jaguars will also have a chance to return quarterback Byron Leftwich to action and allow him to knock the rust off before the following week's playoff game. Leftwich has been out of action since sustaining a broken left ankle in Arizona on Nov. 27. He has received medical clearance to practice on Wednesday.

Del Rio came to Monday's press conference with prepared remarks about Leftwich's possible return.

"I'm going to let the week of practice unfold. I'm going to watch, look, evaluate, determine," he said. "I'd like to go out and see it. What I'm asking you to do is be patient, let the story unfold and let me make the decision I'll make."

David Garrard has a 4-1 record as Leftwich's replacement and Garrard turned in his best performance as a pro in throwing for 292 yards, a touchdown and a 100.5 rating in Houston. He rallied the Jaguars from a 20-17 deficit with 12:15 to play in the game to the 38-20 win.

Now, Del Rio must decide whether to return Leftwich to the starting lineup or maintain Garrard as the team's starting quarterback.

"I think it's a great situation to be in, to have your backup quarterback play well enough to have a question in people's minds," Del Rio said.

"That's why I make the big bucks," he said of the decision. "I truly have one thing in mind when I make decisions: What is best for this team to win?"

Del Rio also volunteered the second burning question of the day. "New England or Cincinnati?" he asked, referring to a preference for a playoff opponent. Unfortunately, he did not volunteer an answer.

In other news, defensive tackle Marcus Stroud was said to be "fine" following a weekend auto accident and defensive end Paul Spicer will have his injured left hand examined by a specialist on Tuesday.

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