We'll open this week's Fabulous Four with a word on Aaron Kampman, the defensive end released by the Jaguars Thursday. No surprise, considering he played just three games last season after missing the last half of his first Jaguars season – 2010 – with a knee injury. Kampman's signing has been criticized throughout much of the last year, understandably so because he played just 11 games after signing a multi-year contract with the Jaguars in the 2010 off-season. I have been asked often if I considered Kampman a bust, and was asked again Thursday. When it comes to injured players, I just have trouble calling them "busts." Kampman by every measure had recovered from the ACL he tore in 2009 with Green Bay when he signed, and through the first eight games of 2010 made a significant impact, registering four sacks in eight games. He provided the pass rush a boost it desperately needed. He tore the other ACL during a practice in November 2010. He played just three games after that, and when he did play, he was ineffective. So, how to judge the Kampman signing? It's impossible to say he fulfilled expectations on the field. The hope was he'd provide effective pass rush for at least two or three seasons, and he did so for only half a season. What he did provide was effective lockerroom leadership for a position group and a team that needed it, and players such as Austen Lane, Tyson Alulu and Terrance Knighton are quick to tell you his influence on their careers will be lasting. How classy was Kampman? Upon his release Thursday, he took the time to issue a statement through the team thanking the team and the community. He didn't have to do that, and not every player would. On the field, this move doesn't change much for the Jaguars. They had approached the off-season with the idea that anything they got from Kampman next season was a bonus, and they were ready to move on with Lane likely starting opposite Jeremy Mincey and rookie Andre Branch growing into what eventually should be a starting role. As for Kampman, he will be missed and those around the franchise will remember him fondly – if not as a player who was productive on the field, certainly as one who gave the team something it needed at a time it really needed it.
3. Moving forward.
We spent the week in the O-Zone talking Justin Blackmon about 90 percent of the time. It seemed people around the city talked about him even more than that. That was understandable, because Blackmon's arrest for aggravated DUI is the sort of event that sends shockwaves through a fan base, particularly a fan base that has lived through R.J. Soward, Matt Jones and Reggie Williams. But while those are the memories conjured by last week's events, remember it may not be accurate to assume that Blackmon's path must be the same. One incident, even considering the high level of alcohol involved, doesn't mean Blackmon will be a washout and it doesn't mean he won't turn into a productive player. Criticize Blackmon all you want. Be as concerned as you want. Keep a watchful eye on his future actions as much as you want. But remember that there are many, many people – and players – who make mistakes with alcohol and worse and turn out to be productive. And don't necessarily lump Blackmon into the category of those who came before him. Not saying he doesn't deserve to be so lumped, but it may not be accurate. As Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said this week, Blackmon made a mistake, but the story can be one with a happy ending. It all depends on what Blackmon does from here forward.
Had the chance this past week to make a couple of the Jaguars' Caravan events, and while the stop in Gainesville Wednesday was a highlight moment because of the presence of Head Coach Mike Mularkey and all-time leading rusher Fred Taylor, all of the stops had an energy and excitement. The caravan is a tangible example of the franchise's objective of expanding and solidifying its regional fans base. It's easy for teams to talk about wanting to do this. It's another thing to put the time, money and effort into actually doing it. A significant indication about the seriousness with which the Jaguars are taking this initiative is players involved. Not only Taylor, but Blaine Gabbert, Mincey, Greg Jones, Blackmon. A lot of teams' initiatives such as this involve practice-squad guys and lesser-known players. The Jaguars have employed their front-line players, indication that this is an important objective moving forward.
1. A Fitting Honor.
We'll close this week not with the quarterback, as is the Fabulous Four tradition, but with a word on Taylor, who not only spent two days with the caravan this week but who was announced Thursday as the second Jaguars player to be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars. The Jaguars after 17 seasons are still in the process of building tradition, and in recent years, the organization hasn't had the success it had early. At the same time, for an organization that is still relatively young, the franchise should consider itself fortunate to have produced two players – Taylor and left tackle Tony Boselli – who not only are franchise-defining players, but who are arguably as good as anyone to have played their respective positions in the last two or three decades. There is time on other days to talk about Boselli, but as for Taylor, this is a player and a man who deserves every accolade and every amount of affection the franchise and fans can give him. He was a rare combination of class, effort, talent and humility, and Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith probably said it best Friday when he said, "When I think of Fred Taylor, I think of grace." That's not a word I would have associated with Taylor when he first came to the Jaguars. I had covered him for a year at Florida in in 1994 and when Taylor arrived with the Jaguars he was about as I remembered him – a shy, talented kid and perhaps a bit standoffish. I quickly realized he was nothing but. I covered Taylor with the Jaguars from 1998-2000, and in the years after that, he did something many backs don't do. He remained productive well past five years, into his 10th season. He did this by remaining strikingly loyal to the Jaguars, even after his 2009 release. When Taylor spoke of his Jaguars career Thursday at the announcement of his induction, he did so with a real fondness and a real appreciation for what the franchise had meant to him. Players of Taylor's talent are rare. Players of his character and class are even rarer. Taylor for many defined the Jaguars for a decade. Honoring him by placing him in the Pride of the Jaguars is only fitting because for a decade, he was absolutely that.