The Johnnie Mitchell experiment has ended. Mitchell, the former first-round pick of the New York Jets who was attempting to resurrect his career with the Jaguars, was cut today.
"We just didn't feel he would make the football team," coach Jack Del Rio said.
Mitchell was not at practice this morning, though an HBO "Real Sports" TV crew arrived in Jacksonville this weekend to do a special report on Mitchell, at the tight end's invitation.
"He gave it his best shot here. It just wasn't going to happen," Del Rio added of Mitchell, the 15th pick of the 1992 draft, who was signed by the Jaguars this past spring.
Mitchell had been out of football from 1996 until re-signing with New Orleans late last season. Personal problems brought a halt to his career as he entered his prime years.
The Jaguars are left with four tight ends: starter Kyle Brady, backup Chris Luzar, rookie fourth-round pick George Wrighster and first-year player Matt Cercone. They were all on the field and in full pads for this morning's practice.
"A very good morning practice," Del Rio said. "They had a little time off and you're always concerned if they can regain their focus, and they did."
This morning's drills began a week that will culminate with the Jaguars' preseason opener in Minnesota on Saturday night. Star running back Fred Taylor will not play in that game, as he continues to nurse what Del Rio has said is a bone bruise in Taylor's left knee.
Taylor's injury is providing rookies LaBrandon Toefield and Joe Smith with ample opportunity to compete for the backup running back job, as veteran Elvis Joseph has also been sidelined.
"LaBrandon's had a nice camp and Joe has run hard," Del Rio said. "I prefer to make it competitive, let 'em compete, and sit back and judge."
Del Rio also talked about the competition at cornerback, where veteran Kiwaukee Thomas is playing possibly the best football of his four-year career, at the same time he's being pushed by undrafted rookie free agent Chris D. Brown.
"Kiwaukee's had a nice start to camp. He's playing physical and putting forth tremendous effort. (Smith) shows the tenacity we covet. It's a matter of him learning how to be a pro. He's doing a nice job to put himself into position to compete for a job," Del Rio said.
Meanwhile, Del Rio had nothing new to offer on the progress of negotiations between the Jaguars and their first-round pick, quarterback Byron Leftwich, whose holdout has reached its ninth practice day.
"Nothing to report; I'm at the same place I was at on day one," Del Rio said. "We have a plan. (Paul Vance and Wayne Weaver) are bringing the players into camp and I'm coaching them."