Another game, another controversy. It must be time for the Jaguars and Titans to play again.
Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher made it official on Monday when he began the week with a volley of words that referred to the Jaguars as a dirty football team. Today, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio returned the volley.
"I did take the liberty of looking up the most penalized defenses in the league, and they're first and we're 15th,"
Del Rio said at this afternoon's press conference.
You betcha; it's time for the Jaguars and Titans to play again.
Today, Fisher explained his Monday comments during a conference call with Jacksonville reporters, though he didn't soften his stance on Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud's late hits on quarterback Steve McNair in the Oct. 26 meeting between the two teams. Fisher especially took exception to Del Rio's defense of Stroud's hits.
"I may have been slightly misrepresented," Fisher said of his original comments. "Coach Del Rio commented on both hits on the quarterback. He felt, perhaps, Steve was getting MVP treatment by the officials. I simply said both of those hits were penalties and both of those hits should've been fined. If they don't think the hits should've been fined, they need to look at the rules at how you perceive and how you tackle the quarterback in and out of the pocket," Fisher added.
"I have looked at hundreds of hits on the quarterback, being part of the competition committee. I know what is a legal hit and what is an illegal hit. If one of my players had been involved in both of those hits, I would've expected him to be fined twice," Fisher said.
"He's defending his guy and I'm defending my guy. Imagine that," Del Rio said.
Stroud was twice flagged for late hits on McNair in the Titans' 30-17 win at Alltel Stadium. The first penalty was drive-sustaining and led to a seven-yard touchdown pass from McNair to Tyrone Calico on the next play. The second violation did not produce points for the Titans, but it appeared to be more forceful than the first infraction and it's believed the second violation is the play that resulted in the league fining Stroud $5,000.
"I don't know if it was the first one or the second one," Stroud said. "It said I took an extra step," he added of the league's opinion in fining him. "I didn't think it was a late hit. I'm not a dirty player. Why should I stop because of what one guy thinks?"
Stroud remained firm in his stance. "I'm going to play the same way," he said. "I just have to listen to what my coach says."
"They play aggressive. They're an aggressive team. I'm impressed with the Jaguars. They've taken on Jack's personality," Fisher said, but he maintained that, "In my opinion, yes, both hits should've been fined.
"I don't feel it was malicious. Marcus plays hard. We had a very high grade on Marcus. We would've loved to have him," Fisher added.
Prior to the first meeting between the two teams, Fisher made a sarcastic reference to "keep chopping wood," Del Rio's infamous slogan from earlier in the season that resulted in a locker room accident that ended punter Chris Hanson's season. But Del Rio did not retaliate verbally. This time around, the penalty information the rookie Jaguars coach offered would seem to have put him right into the spirit of what has been a heated rivalry since the Titans beat the Jaguars in the 1999 AFC title game.
"I never like anything cheap, but I like aggressive play," Del Rio said.
Fisher confirmed that information, saying this year's Jaguars team is more aggressive than those of the past.
"The difference can be seen in the game against the Colts. They were overwhelmingly aggressive. The philosophy is if there's an opponent standing and the whistle hasn't blown, knock him down. I think they're a little more aggressive physically," Fisher said.
"I have great respect for the players on their team. I think they have the most improved offensive line in the league right now," he added.
But it may be too late for kind words. The gloves are off, on both sides.