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Even in bad times, Smith as good as ever


Jimmy Smith is back in the Pro Bowl. That much hasn't changed, even in the Jaguars' "most difficult" season.

"It's an honor to play in the game. It's a reward," the Jaguars wide receiver said today, when it was announced he was the team's lone selection to the AFC Pro Bowl roster.

Quarterback Mark Brunell and defensive tackle Gary Walker were named first alternates, and defensive end Tony Brackens and strong safety Donovin Darius are second alternates.

"I didn't really expect to (be selected to the Pro Bowl); six wins. You have to win some games to get in that," Brunell said.

Walker would love to play in the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, but isn't wishing injury to any of the three (Trevor Pryce, Sam Adams, John Randle) defensive tackles voted to the AFC team.

Meanwhile, coach Tom Coughlin delighted in the selection of Smith to the AFC roster for the fifth consecutive year, which is one of the few highlights in an otherwise dismal season.

"Yeah, I would say it's been the most difficult; more difficult than '95," Coughlin said of the 2001 season, which concludes this Sunday in Chicago.

At 6-9, the Jaguars have almost no motivation in week 17. All that remains is their faith that next season will be better, but that'll be a tough sell considering the change that'll be forced on this team by its bulging salary cap.

"That's what you have to believe. You have to believe," Coughlin said of optimism for 2002.

"I'm not glad to see (the season) end. I just wish there was a better outcome," he added.

Jaguars players have started addressing questions about their future with the team. Brunell says he "expects to be" approached this winter about re-structuring his contract. Smith said the same.

Meanwhile, Walker's status with the club may be too close to call. After having spent the 13th pick of last spring's draft on defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, the Jaguars would seem to be forced to release either Walker or Seth Payne, the team's starting defensive tackles. Walker would save the team about $1.25 million in cap room if he was released; Payne would save about $1.7 million.

"I wouldn't be mad either way," Walker said. "The three years I've played with him, I've enjoyed it. He's a great player to work with. I would love to stay here, but I moved on before. It did me some good."

In other news, the Jaguars put cornerback Fernando Bryant on the injured reserve list today, which allowed the team to activate wide receiver R. Jay Soward from the reserve/suspended list. Soward has been on suspension for 14 of the Jaguars' 15 games this season, and he was not to be included in meetings or practices this week.

Meanwhile, cornerback Aaron Beasley and linebacker T.J. Slaughter underwent shoulder surgeries at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute.

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