Mike Peterson was not with the Jaguars on Thursday and Fred Taylor, serving as spokesman for his teammates, said the team misses Peterson but will be ready to play in Detroit on Sunday.
"It saddens the mood," said Taylor, the team's most esteemed veteran, "but we all have a job to do. Pete was a spirit in the locker room. He always challenged guys. Guys felt comfortable with Pete. He kept the mood real."
Peterson, the Jaguars' starting middle linebacker since Jack Del Rio became the team's head coach in 2003, was sent home by Del Rio on Wednesday, following an undisclosed incident, the roots of which are thought to be Peterson's contract discontent and Del Rio's irritation with it. The situation boiled over on Wednesday, following three incidents in Cincinnati this past Sunday.
"The team had a very good practice (on Wednesday). We don't want what happened last week to happen again in Detroit. Detroit is playing hard on tape. We're only three games better than they are. Like Cincinnati, they probably feel like this is their best chance," Taylor said, referring to the 0-8 Lions' quest to post a win. The Bengals, of course, were 0-8 when they defeated the Jaguars, 21-19.
In the third quarter of that game, with the Jaguars trailing, 21-3, Peterson celebrated a sack. Del Rio is thought to have voiced his disapproval of that action on Wednesday. The sack occurred one play after John Henderson was flagged for two personal fouls and was ejected from the game. Henderson then mocked jeering fans as he left the field, the second incident on Sunday that angered Del Rio.
The crowning blow occurred in the Jaguars' postgame locker room, when wide receivers Jerry Porter, Matt Jones and Reggie Williams participated in an outburst of laughter during the media interviews period.
Del Rio spent the time between Sunday and Wednesday morning digesting the three incidents and his feelings about Peterson's contract discontent, then decided to announce changes to his players on Wednesday. Del Rio announced several locker re-assignments and code-of-conduct changes. Hats and hoods are no longer permitted to be worn during meetings and players must wear head phones to listen to music.
"I'm 100 percent in support of that," Taylor said of the new discipline measures. "It's just certain discipline he's tightening back up and not let everything get as loose as it was headed to."
Taylor was emphatic in saying that Peterson's dismissal will not detract from the team's effort in Detroit this Sunday. "Not from a bringing-energy standpoint; as far as his rotation, I can't speak on that. Those other guys are waiting for their opportunity," Taylor said.