This time next week, Henry Douglas will either be on the roster of the Jacksonville Jaguars, or back in North Carolina deciding what to do with his life. This would seem to be the make or break week in Douglas' pro football career.
Douglas certainly took a big step toward making the Jaguars' regular-season roster when he caught a game-winning, 32-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback David Garrard last Friday, in the Jaguars' 24-16 win over the Chicago Bears. All of a sudden, Douglas has graduated to the ranks of a featured performer in this Thursday's preseason finale against the visiting Dallas Cowboys.
"Where I stand, I don't know. That decision is not up to me," Douglas said, avoiding the question purposely. He explained he had been down this road three times previously, each time with the Detroit Lions, and in each case he allowed his emotions to cause him daily heartburn. This time around, Douglas vowed to be cool.
"This year, I just told myself I'm not going to worry about it. It can drive you crazy," Douglas said.
In 1999, Douglas was in the Lions' training camp as an undrafted rookie from North Carolina A&T. He made it all the way to the final cuts.
The following summer, he was back with the Lions, was cut on Aug. 22, but re-signed to the Lions' practice squad.
Last summer, he made it all the way to the final cuts, again, before the axe fell, again.
"Before, I went through all of the emotions possible," he said. "It's made it a lot easier," he said of his new attitude, a kind of "I will survive" demeanor. "One game (Tampa Bay), I started to get a little anxiety, but I just calmed myself down," he said.
The potential for anxiety is there. Douglas could look at the Jaguars wide receiver situation and decide it's a land of opportunity. Then he could take another look and decide that opportunity might evaporate the moment Jimmy Smith ends his holdout.
It's best he not give it too much thought, at least until next week.
"As long as there's opportunity, I'll continue to do it," he said of pursuing a professional football career. "When it works against me, then I'll quit. I don't want to be some old guy stuck in a dead-end situation," he added.
Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said at his noon press conference today Thursday's game will be used primarily as a showcase for players such as Douglas. "You really do want to zoom in on people who do have an opportunity" of making the final roster, Coughlin said.
Coughlin also told reporters Tony Brackens turned in an encouraging practice session yesterday, but experienced swelling in his knee overnight. Brackens was not scheduled to practice today.
"Brackens had a good day yesterday. He was very quick. I was encouraged by that. Then, during the night, he swelled. That's not unusual. He's scheduled to practice (Tuesday). We'll see how it goes," Coughlin said.