Coach Jack Del Rio supported referee Ed Hochuli's decision to eject Donovin Darius from Sunday night's game in Green Bay, and defended Darius' claim that his clothesline hit on Packers wide receiver Robert Ferguson was not intentional.
"I do not believe it was his intent to hurt (Ferguson). He attempted to club at the football and ended up hitting him in the head. It should've been flagged and it was. It should be fined and it will be," Del Rio said of Darius' late-game foul, which resulted in Ferguson being carted from the field and spending the night in a hospital with what has since been diagnosed as a neck sprain.
Darius was penalized for a personal foul and was ejected from the game. Del Rio initially showed disfavor with the decision to eject Darius, claiming it was motivated by the crowd's reaction to repeated scoreboard replays of the play. Today, Del Rio softened his opinion of the ejection.
"I think the referees did what they had to do. The fact that he was on the ground so long and they kept showing it so many times … it was probably the right thing to do," Del Rio said.
Ferguson was injured with 4:41 to play in the game and the Jaguars protecting a 28-17 lead. The drive ended with a Deon Grant interception, but the Packers scored on their next possession, cutting the Jaguars' lead to 28-25, the eventual final score.
"He plays a physical brand of football but he plays within the rules. He's really backed away from all of that stuff. I don't think he has to change what he does," Del Rio said of Darius, whose reputation is that of a hard-hitting safety.
"We like guys clubbing through the ball. It was a nasty shot but I don't believe his intent was to head-hunt," Del Rio added. "I never like to see a player hurt, whether it be one of our players or whether it be an opponent. I would never in any way want to see anyone hurt. We're going to be a tough, physical football team, but I expect our players to play within the rules."
Darius is expected to incur a substantial fine from the league but Del Rio doesn't expect that Darius will receive a suspension. "I would think that would be highly unlikely. The guys who've been suspended in the past have had a history of doing things," Del Rio said.
The incident blunted some of the Jaguars' postgame celebration, but bigger parties could be on the horizon. With wins over the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders, the Jaguars would finish 10-6 and that might qualify them for an AFC playoffs wild-card berth.
"This is an exciting time right now. We are still in the hunt and we have an opportunity this week against a Houston team that got us (earlier this season)," Del Rio said. "It's imperative you play your best football late in the year. The team is playing hard and giving it up. I anticipate we'll come back to work on Wednesday full of energy."
Running back Fred Taylor was to have an MRI on his left knee this afternoon. Taylor sustained what is believed to be a minor injury in the second half of Sunday's game, after rushing 22 times for 165 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown burst. Del Rio termed the MRI exam "precautionary."
The win at Lambeau Field was achieved in the second-coldest game in Jaguars history. The temperature at kickoff was 12 degrees and the wind chill was minus-three.
"I had to trade in my jacket at halftime for a bigger version. We heard about the record all week; 38-1 in frigid conditions. Part of the reason we were able to get it done was the fast start. When we have started fast like that this year we have gotten it done," Del Rio said.
Quarterback Byron Leftwich completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith on just the third play of the game. It immediately followed a 46-yard run by Taylor.
"It's what the game is all about, guys making plays, making the plan work," Del Rio said.
The win in Green Bay was also about defeating the cold. The Jaguars did that by rushing for 197 yards, intercepting Brett Favre three times and forcing three red-zone turnovers.
"There's a certain style I believe in and this team is embracing that," Del Rio said of a physical style of play that works best in cold-weather games. "I'm happy people are seeing what we believe, that we can compete regardless of who the opponent is or what the weather is."