Motivation has never been a problem for Mike Peterson (pictured). He's always been able to find it; even for something as mundane as the start of OTA (organized team activity) practices.
"This is the NFL. You have to prove yourself every time you strap up. I've never been handed anything. Competing for a job; reassuring the coaches. I don't have a problem with that at all," Peterson said as the Jaguars began their OTA's season on Tuesday.
This season will be Peterson's 10th. It will also be his last with the Jaguars, unless he gets a new contract. Make no mistake about it, Peterson wants a new contract and he is intent on proving he's worthy of one.
"The ball is not in my court. I'm trying to do everything the right way. I'm trying to stay positive. Hopefully, they'll step up to the plate and take care of the deal. Anybody associated with me knows I want to be here," Peterson said.
"There's going to be a time and a place that business is going to take precedent over my football family. It is a business. I'm a grown man. I can handle it either way. I've seen it all in this league. I can swallow either pill. I know I have a lot of football left in me. My approach is I'm going to handle my business on the field. I don't want to get into the whining thing," he added.
Peterson never gets into the whining thing. He's as straight-shooting as they come. Football means a lot to him; maybe too much.
When his hand got caught between two helmets last season, he tried to convince his hand that it wasn't broken. The hand talked back.
"I kept telling myself I'm not hurt; I don't have time to be hurt. But the more the game went on, it began throbbing and swelling," Peterson said.
X-rays sided with the hand. It was broken and so was Peterson's season. The Jaguars would go to the playoffs; Peterson would not.
"It was rough; probably the roughest part of my career. Watching us go to the postseason was the roughest. Just feeling like I let people down; players down, my family down, the city down. It's rough mentally. It's happened to me twice," he said.
In 2005, Peterson played in the Jaguars' postseason loss in New England. He wore a cast on his broken wrist and played, well, as you would expect of a guy who has a broken wrist. Most guys, of course, wouldn't play with a broken wrist. Peterson isn't most guys.
He's the kind of guy to whom you give a lot of money and don't worry about him taking the money and running. In 2003, the Jaguars gave Peterson a lot of money in free agency and he's given them five seasons of solid production. During that time, Peterson has also been the team's emotional leader.
These, however, are different times. Peterson will turn 32 next month and the Jaguars spent a second-round pick on Justin Durant a year ago, and Durant was impressive in replacing Peterson late last season. Durant has young legs and Peterson knows what that means. He knows all eyes will be on him this spring to see if he's still young.
"Super young," Peterson said. "I don't have a problem proving I can run with the young guys. Let's put it all out there and compete. When I do my provin', I'll be ready to reap the benefits in the end."
The hand is ready to go; no problem.
"Broke, fixed and a lot of rehab; good to go," Peterson said. "My personal goal is always high. My ultimate goal is to be in Tampa. I put my goals down before the season and then during the season I look at that. I don't want to put them out there but they're super high."
The Jaguars conducted their first of 14 OTA's. In some ways, you might say training camp began on Tuesday. For sure, the start of the OTA season carries with it a feeling of newness. The players know that eyes are watching them.
This is a season, of course, in which a lot of eyes are going to be watching the Jaguars. Is this team for real? Was last season the first step in a climb toward the championship level, or was it a tease?
"I saw us in the offseason making moves to win in the postseason. Making moves to beat Indianapolis. Making moves to counter things we've had problems with before; teams spreading us out and then running the ball on us," Peterson said. "Stay humble, stay hungry. I was taught that at a young age by my mom and my dad. I'm hungry."
The Jaguars worked out for about an hour and a half on Tuesday morning. Defensive end Paul Spicer and running back Fred Taylor were no-shows.
"I spoke to both of them this morning. I'll let you ask (Spicer) how he wants to present it," Del Rio said when asked if Spicer's absence is a result of contract discontent. "He expressed that he wouldn't be here. I expressed that I'd like him to be here."
Taylor has been an OTA's no-show in the past, electing to remain in South Florida and condition there. OTA's, of course, are voluntary. Del Rio said Taylor would participate in next week's workouts.
Five players did not practice due to rehab from injuries: Brian Smith, George Wrighster (knee), Mike Walker (knee), Marcedes Lewis (knee) and Greg Estandia (shoulder). Smith, a fourth-round draft choice in 2007, missed all of last season due to a hip injury, but Del Rio said the hip was not the reason for his inactivity on Tuesday. Smith chose not to disclose the injury and Del Rio complied.
"(Lewis) just tweaked his leg. He'll be back shortly," Del Rio said.
Starting cornerback Brian Williams took reps at safety.
"We're going to get him some exposure there. We're trying to put together the strongest secondary we can. Brian will be starting somewhere for the Jaguars," Del Rio said.
The next practice is scheduled for Thursday morning.