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Hayward returns to Jags


Reggie Hayward made a whirlwind tour of free agency and then landed back in Jacksonville, where life with the Jaguars will be just fine if Hayward can get the past the season-opener.

"If I can get past the first game of the season, I should be OK for the rest of the season," Hayward said, referring to a torn Achilles in the 2006 season-opener and a broken ankle in last year's opener. In each case, the injuries were season-ending.

In '05, Hayward was the Jaguars' $10 million man. That's what the Jaguars paid Hayward in free agency and his 8.5 sacks that year helped put the Jaguars into the playoffs.

Since the '06 opener, however, Hayward's career has been reduced to recovery. He fought back to have respectable seasons in '07 and '08, even though he was playing on one leg.

Heading into last season, it appeared Hayward had regained the strength in his left foot, then came the broken ankle, which included ligament damage to, of course, the left ankle.

"Million dollar ankle," Hayward calls it. "I've had two major injuries."

Hayward signed a contract on Thursday to play for the Jaguars, which gives the Jags more insurance at defensive end, which is largely considered to be the team's position of greatest need and concern.

"I went big business," Hayward said of his tour of free agency. "It was all right. I met with the St. Louis Rams. I flew around, met with a few organizations. There were definitely some looks out there.

"I favor Jacksonville. Do you really want to pick up and move? Do you really want to try to join another team and spark a new fire with another team or stay where you're established? I've got some things I haven't gotten done here, especially coming off that injury," Hayward added.

This latest tour of duty with the Jaguars won't be of the high-profile, big-contract variety.

"All eyes aren't on me? I can sneak up and make some plays? There isn't pressure on me to be that headline defensive end, but I still expect to be that guy. I put a lot of pressure on myself," he said.

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