All of those actions are pretty much inevitable, and unless you embrace change, you will go insane from living in the past. Before I embrace this one particular change, I want to live in the past for just a little bit and reflect.
Let me begin by stating that I get paid to give football evaluations, and from an NFL, business-like standpoint, releasing Donovin Darius was the proper move at this point in his career. Darius is growing older, and he has missed a combined 21 games in the last two seasons. Combine that with his large $3.5 million salary, releasing him was really the only move that the front office could make, as they must protect their salary cap in regards to the pursuit of a championship. I know it's right, but I don't have to like it.
I began my close association with the Jaguars in 1998, and a big reason for that association was their rookie strong safety that went to college in Syracuse, New York (virtually the same area I grew up in), Donovin Darius. As I wrote earlier, I get paid to give football evaluations. Folks, this one is for free. When I first heard about Donovin Darius getting released, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Donovin Darius was the first Jaguars player that I really identified with. Darius was a hellacious hitter, and watching him play from 1998-2004 reminded me of when I was growing up, watching the great Ronnie Lott. I loved Darius' physical style of play and full-time leadership. In the current culture of 24" wheels, iced-out bling, and the often-times ridiculous self-promotion, I always felt like "DD" stood for a lot more.
As great of a player that DD was in his prime, he's a much better person off the field, and will continue to be regardless of whether he plays another snap in the NFL. As scary as DD's eyes are, he is extremely approachable with the pads off. He is a man of great spirituality, and although I am not, I have always respected his views and his passion. Although Darius had some public contract issues a few years ago in which he said some things that he probably shouldn't have, DD went out of his way to repair his relationship with the fans that have supported him since he became a Jaguar. He didn't have to go that far with me. As DD would say, to forgive is divine.
I remember all of the good times with Donovin Darius. I remember him knocking Jerry Rice out in the 1999 season opener when the Jaguars trounced the 49ers 41-3. I remember DD playing big, and then celebrating after the Jaguars last playoff victory, the 62-7 beat down of Miami (1/00). I remember DD's clothesline of poor Robert Ferguson in the Jaguars first ever victory in Green Bay back in '04, and I remember defending him as many people in the mainstream media took pot-shots, calling DD a dirty player. Watching DD play exudes emotion. All you have to do is look into those "crazy eyes", and if you can't feel some adrenaline, you're not a football fan.
The writing has obviously been on the wall for a divorce between DD and the Jaguars for a while now, considering the leg injuries, the salary, the solid play of Darius' replacement, Gerald Sensabaugh, and of course the drafting of Reggie Nelson. The Jaguars will now start the two most athletic safeties in franchise history, and they should be a better secondary overall. But as great as Sensabaugh and Nelson may become, they will never replace Donovin Darius. I'm not sure if DD will play again in the NFL, but I wish him the best of luck, and I look forward to covering his induction ceremony in the Jaguars Ring of Honor.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular contributor to FoxSports.com and Sportsillustated.com. Feel free to e-mail Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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