For the first time since he tore his groin muscle in week two of the season, Fred Taylor has been upgraded on the Jaguars' injury report. He is officially listed as "questionable" for this Sunday's game against visiting Cincinnati. That means there's a 50 percent chance Taylor will play.
"There'll be caution at first," coach Tom Coughlin said of assessing Taylor's condition at practice today. "Hopefully, he'll practice and won't have any pain. The big thing will be how he feels tomorrow," Coughlin added.
Taylor has not played during the Jaguars' five-game losing streak. Since leaving the lineup, the Jaguars' running game has fallen to 26th in the league, while time of possession is an NFL-worst 26:10.
Clearly, fans are depending on the star running back's return to action to reverse the Jaguars' fortunes, and Coughlin admits his team has missed Taylor's big-play ability. However, Taylor deflected fan criticism and pressure when he met with reporters today.
"A lot of people put pressure on me. When is he going to be back? Everyone says when I get back this thing will turn around. Not necessarily. It'll turn around when we stop making foolish mistakes," Taylor said, clearly hurt again by remarks that he is fragile or that he is not willing to play hurt.
His groin was described as having been partially torn from the bone, and Taylor remains firm that he will not return to action until the risk of re-tearing the muscle is eliminated.
"If I come back too early, the chances are high. If I come back when I'm ready, the chances are very slim," he said of the risk of re-tearing the muscle. "My thing is to make sure I'm healthy; that Fred's well. I've always been a team player. I'll do anything for my teammates, but making a foolish decision to return early is not one of them. I have to do what's best for Fred."
Coughlin confirmed the need to eliminate the risk of re-injury. "There's always the issue of can you injure yourself more? That'll be a strong consideration. We'll see what he can and can't do. Fred will tell the (medical) people how he feels," Coughlin said.
The Jaguars began preparations today for a Bengals team that features the league's sixth-best rushing attack. Corey Dillon is sixth in the AFC with 625 yards rushing, and stopping Dillon is the most important challenge the Jaguars defense will face.
That defense was at issue Monday, after having blown leads of 17-7 and 24-21 in the second half of Sunday's 28-24 loss in Tennessee. Defensive tackle Gary Walker, who talked of player dissent for defensive coordinator Gary Moeller's defensive scheme, was not nearly as strong in his comments today.
When asked if he had changed his opinion of the scheme, Walker said: "Not really, but you can understand things better" after looking at the game tapes.
Coughlin was also understanding of Walker's position. "Have you ever been in a losing situation where there hasn't been some rumbling or grumbling?" Coughlin said.
When asked if there would be any change in the defensive strategy, the coach said, "No big change."
If Taylor is able to play, that might be all the change the Jaguars need.