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Jags sign Battles; it must be Steelers week


The Jaguars have signed a player off waivers from Pittsburgh. It must be Steelers week.

It has become somewhat of a tradition for the Jaguars to sign a former Steelers player just before playing the Steelers. Most prominently, the Jaguars signed quarterback Jim Miller before a Monday night game in Jacksonville in 1997. The day after that win over the Steelers, Miller was cut.

This year, it's a safety named Ainsley Battles. The Steelers cut Battles this past Sunday, and the Jaguars put in a claim that was honored by the league Monday evening. This Sunday, Battles will be on the roster of the opponent of the team that had cut him just seven days previous.

Coach Tom Coughlin was prepared for the question at today's press conference. He made light of the inference that he claimed Ainsley to empty his head of information on the Steelers, but, Coughlin didn't deny Battles would be interrogated.

"We saw him on film. We liked him. Now that we have him here, we'll ask him some questions," Coughlin said, which caused laughter among the gathered reporters.

Of course, the Jaguars could honestly claim a genuine interest in Battles, since defensive backs coach Perry Fewell coached Battles at Vanderbilt before joining the Jaguars. That'll hold up, as long as the Jaguars don't cut Battles next week.

The Steelers never complained about the Miller incident, but the second time the two teams played that season, in Pittsburgh, Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd delivered a vicious shot to wide receiver Keenan McCardell's head on the first play of the game. The attack happened on the other side of the field from where the ball was and went unnoticed. Dazed, McCardell crawled from the field on his hands and knees.

After the game, Lloyd told reporters his hit was retaliation for what he alleged was a threatening phone call by McCardell to Lloyd's family during the week of the game. Lloyd's allegation was dismissed as folly. There were thoughts that McCardell was the unfortunate subject of "Miller Time."

Meanwhile, the Jaguars announced they have also signed off waivers quarterback Phil Stambaugh (Saints), cornerback Earthwind Moreland (Jets) and running back Frank Moreau (Chiefs). To make room for those players, the Jaguars cut running back Shyrone Stith, cornerback Shad Criss and safety Delvin Brown.

The Jaguars began on-the-field preparations for Sunday's season-opener against the Steelers today, and the unofficial medical report is encouraging. Tony Boselli (knee), McCardell (hernia surgery), Kyle Brady (staph infection), Fernando Bryant (shoulder separation) and T.J. Slaughter (shoulder separation) all practiced. Tony Brackens (knee), Elvis Joseph (hamstring) and Eric Westmoreland (knee) did not practice.

"We're excited. It's Steelers week. It's the opening of the NFL season. We look forward to this," Coughlin said.

McCardell would neither confirm nor deny his availability for Sunday's game, but he added: "You must not know me. If I'm feeling the way I need to feel, I'll be out there. That's the only way I know; be in the mix."

"I could throw him three passes and we're back on," quarterback Mark Brunell said of his rapport with McCardell, who did not play a down during the preseason.

"He's probably one of the toughest guys I've ever played with," Brunell added.

Brunell, McCardell, wide receiver Jimmy Smith and running back Fred Taylor are the offensive stars of a team that has struggled on defense and along the offensive line. Clearly, the Jaguars are resting their hopes on their skill-position players, but that's nothing new.

"There are guys on this team who are designated play-makers and who have to make plays for the team to be successful, and I guess I'm one of those guys," Brunell said. "We know what our strengths are; who can make plays."

Maybe Battles will be one of those guys.

In other news, The Jaguars have announced a five-man practice squad, which includes two draft choices who they cut this past Sunday. Sixth-round guard Chad Ward and seventh-round wide receiver Richmond Flowers were signed, along with undrafted rookie free agents Ryan Prince (tight end) and Patrick Venzke (offensive tackle). The fifth member of the practice squad is defensive end Randy Garner, who was cut by the Falcons.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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