A humble and contrite R. Jay Soward spoke to reporters today for the first time since returning to the Jaguars this week.
"I'm just happy to be back with the team. I just learned … I learned some things," said Soward, who had spent 10 weeks in a rehabilitation clinic during consecutive suspensions this fall for violation of the NFL's "substance abuse" policy.
Soward, the Jaguars' 2000 first-round draft choice, was calm and deliberate in his remarks to reporters. He met with coach Tom Coughlin this past Tuesday and Coughlin said he believes Soward has been changed by his recent experiences.
"He's humble, he's willing to listen, he knows he has a problem," Coughlin said. "This is a lifetime struggle for him. It's about more than football. It appears to me this past experience has been a good one for him."
Soward said Coughlin has been supportive throughout the past two troubled seasons. "He's always been there for me in every situation," Soward said.
"As long as I stay out of the paper negatively and come in here and perform, I should be all right. You're out here by yourself, a 22-year-old kid. I just went about things the wrong way," the wide receiver from USC added.
Soward is practicing with the Jaguars and Coughlin said he will make a decision later this week as to Soward's availability for Monday night's game against the Packers, however, Coughlin hinted yesterday that he might use the one-week roster exemption the league gave the Jaguars for Soward's return.
"I had a lot of time to think about making plays; dream about making plays. I feel I'm ready to play Monday night," he said.
Soward declined to speak specifically about his time in rehab, but he offered an introspective look at his past. "This is something that's going to be with me forever. That's the most embarrassing thing. I'm going to do everything not to embarrass this organization," he said.
"It's really in his hands. It's how he handles it. It's whether R. Jay has learned his recent lessons and whether he's found that trustworthiness we're all looking for," Coughlin said.
Since leaving the Jaguars just prior to the start of the regular season, Soward has married and his wife is expecting a child.
"If he can hold himself together and stay focused, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. We'll help him as long as he helps himself," Coughlin said. "It's going to be over time that he'll pass this test."