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Jones out, Darius back

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Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio did not express concern about Matt Jones' hamstring or Fred Taylor's knee, following the team's first of 14 OTA (organized team activity) practices on Tuesday morning.

"He's eager to get back," Del Rio said of Jones, the 21st pick of this year's draft. "As part of that eagerness, he went out last week and tweaked it. He wants to show his teammates he can make plays."

Jones originally sustained the hamstring pull in the second practice of mini-camp, on April 29. He was held out of drills in the final three practices of mini-camp, then re-injured the hamstring while working out on his own last week in Arkansas.

"The big thing is to slow down and let that leg heal up. It's something we'll monitor day to day. It's the middle of May. The important thing is to have him for training camp," Del Rio said.

Training camp (July 29) is also Taylor's target. Taylor is recovering from offseason knee surgery and will not participate in spring drills until late June, if at all. Taylor was present at Tuesday's practice but strictly as an observer.

"It hasn't changed from what I said back in March," Del Rio said of Taylor's timetable for recovery. "Fred's rehabbing and we're not going to rush it. This is not the time for it. The rehab is on course and going well. We expect to have him for training camp."

Tuesday's practice also marked the on-field return of safety Donovin Darius, who was fined by Del Rio for missing mini-camp. Darius told reporters Tuesday afternoon that his decision not to attend mini-camp was not related to having been "franchised" for the third consecutive year by the Jaguars.

"I wanted to make sure I ended the offseason program," Darius said of a conditioning regimen in Philadelphia he had begun in February. "Part of the offseason program was to finish those three days."

Darius had lashed out at the team for giving him the "franchise" tag again, but his remarks on Tuesday were very conciliatory.

"I asked Mr. Weaver to forgive me if I offended him in any way," Darius said of a conversation he had with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver recently.

"Our window of opportunity to make money is shorter than a lot of other professions. If I offended any of my fans, I apologize," Darius added.

The "franchise" designation guarantees $5 million in salary to Darius this year. He earned $4 million in 2004 and $3 million in '03 as a "franchise" player, which makes his total take $12 million over the last three years.

"I've gotten more with the 'franchise' tag than I would've gotten if I had signed a deal three years ago. As it's turned out, it's been a great deal," said Darius, who was asked if he would accept a fourth "franchise" tag if the team chooses to tag him, again, in '06. "I'll say 'fine' and sign it," he said.

"This was the first year I let out some frustration. I was at peace with it. It wasn't about the $5 million. My thing was that it was about a long-term contract," said Darius, who wanted the security a long-term contract would offer against the risk of injury.

In other news, second-round draft choice Khalif Barnes and second-year wide receiver Ernest Wilford are the only players who were absent from Tuesday's practice. NFL rules forbid Barnes to join the spring practices until after the University of Washington conducts graduation ceremonies. Wilford's absence (personal reasons) was excused.

The Jaguars will practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

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