Mike Peterson Is Back

After Mike Peterson suffered a broken hand last year and was sent to the sidelines for most of the second half of the season, the Jaguars' veteran middle linebacker avoided speaking to the media. Peterson was tired of answering the same question of "are you going to be back soon?" He felt he could have played near the end of the regular season and certainly in the team's two playoff games.

Club officials thought otherwise and Peterson ended up missing the team's final eight games, including postseason games against Pittsburgh and New England.

Two months later with the Jaguars beginning their offseason workout program this week, Peterson's hand is completely healed. He's OK with speaking to the media again, but makes it clear that he needs to let his play on the field speak for itself.

The former Florida standout is in the final season of a six-year, $19.4 million deal he signed as a free agent in 2003 in leaving the Indianapolis Colts, the team that drafted him in 1999. He'll turn 32 in June and while that's not considered an over-the-hill number, the Jaguars have three young, standout linebackers in Daryl Smith, Clint Ingram and Justin Durant, none of whom are older than 26.

Peterson's $3 million contract appears safe this year by the fact that the club dished out a $1.6 million roster bonus on March 1, an indication that the nine-year veteran figures in the team's plans for 2008.

But after missing the eight games last year along with the final 11 games of the 2006 season due to a torn pectoral muscle, Peterson wasn't about to take anything for granted, not at 32 and with three talented, younger linebackers ready to serve as the foundation of an already depleted defense. He would love for the Jaguars to re-sign him to a new deal during this offseason, instead of waiting until after the season ends and he becomes a free agent.

"You want to make it hard for them (not to re-sign you). That's how you do it. You don't show them in the paper," he said. "You don't show them by making big-time quotes. I let my play speak for itself."

Peterson confirmed that he weighed the option of bypassing the offseason workouts and possibly even holding out in his hope for a new contract. He decided that wasn't the best course of action to take.

He was already in a sour mood after learning that the Jaguars had traded his close friend and lockerroom favorite Marcus Stroud during the offseason. He even had concerns that he could be next on the trading block, a thought that was erased when the team paid out the roster bonus four weeks ago.

So for now, he'll have his agent continue pressing for a new agreement with the Jaguars while he turns his efforts to helping the team reach the goal of a Super Bowl berth. His younger brother, Adrian, made it with the Bears in 2006 and he'd like to match that this season.

"It's my turn. I'm due (to get there)," he said.

Throw in a new contract with the desired team goal and Peterson would likely feel like a 22-year-old rookie again. For now, he's out to prove that he can compete against those types on the highest level of the game, new contract or not.

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