Reynolds' credentials were impressive: He was the 2000 Lombardi Award winner as the nation's top lineman and was an All-America selection as a senior. An active participant in the Seminoles' 1999 National Championship team, he was the Seminoles' sack leader his junior and senior season – including putting then Virginia QB Michael Vick on the turf three times during a Sugar Bowl victory. Reynolds finished his collegiate career fourth on Florida State's all-time sack list.
Reynolds was known for his speed, explosion, and dominance. The Packers' touted his reputation as a hard worker. He seemed tailor-made to follow in White's footsteps.
"He has extraordinary speed.. . In my mind I've matched him against all the left tackles in this league, and I think he can perform well," head coach Mike Sherman said shortly after taking the GM reins from Wolf in June 2001. "He is a force as a pass rusher – those guys are hard to find. I think Jamal will help our defense immediately."
One of Sherman's first big acts of 2001 as GM was to sign Reynolds to a 5-year, $9.5 million deal plus a $4 million signing bonus on July 25, 2001.
The unfulfilled promise of Sherman's hopes for the rookie are well documented.
Reynolds suffered a hyperextension of his left knee during practice Aug. 16, 2001, about three weeks before the regular season began. The rookie was forced to sit out of the tail end of training camp, the rest of pre-season and what should have been his rookie debut in Week 1. He finally returned to practice Sept. 17, but remained inactive through week 10.
Reynolds finally saw professional game action when the Packers beat host Jacksonville Jaguars 28-21 on Monday Night Football Dec. 3, 2001. It seemed like there was light at the end of the early injury tunnel when Reynolds sacked QB Mark Brunell in the final minute and Nate Wayne recovered, sealing the Packer win.
Three weeks later vs. Cleveland, Reynolds handed Cleveland QB Tim Couch the same fate. He sacked Couch and forced a fumble, recovered by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in Packer territory late in the game, assuring a Packer win.
Those sacks (incidentally of former and future Packer QBs) accounted for half Reynolds' tackle total and were certainly the highlight of his shortened rookie campaign. Those were the best moments of his three seasons in Green Bay.
Reynolds' left knee required surgery in Jan. 2002. Recovery was slow. Reynolds was limited by the knee in training camp and in the first half of the season during which he played only briefly. Again, his short stays featured a couple clips for the highlight reel. He ran down Vick in an opening day win vs. Atlanta, and when he got back on the field again four weeks later, he forced a a fumble. Inactive for most of the middle of the 2002 campaign, Reynolds returned Dec. 22 vs. Buffalo and recovered a Drew Bledsoe fumble.
He again showed promise in 2003, with coaches hoping that his knee was back to 100 percent. "He's going to come into the season as healthy as he's ever been since the draft," then defensive line coach Jethro Franklin said before last season. "He's going to have more confidence."
Instead, last season was the least notable of Reynolds three Packer campaigns. The now 25-year-old Reynolds saw limited action in the first half of the season. His shining moment was playing for the injuried Chukie Nwokorie vs. Kansas City, resulting in a lone tackle. He did not record a sack last year, and tallied just four tackles over five games. For the first time he had no forced fumbles or fumble recoveries.
"Obviously he hasn't been on the field and contributing the way it was expected he would," Sherman said during the 2003 season. "When you take someone in the 10th pick, you certainly expect an impact player. That hasn't happened, truthfully. I don't need to tell you guys that, or him that.
"He has worked hard in practice. His work habits this off-season were very good. He came into camp in shape, bigger and stronger. He's doing what he can do to help the situation improve, but it hasn't been enough yet to get him on the field."
A few opportunities came his way in 2003 with injuries to Nwokorie and Kenny Peterson, but Reynolds was relegated to the inactive list for the final nine regular season games.
"You know it's frustrating," Reynolds told the Green Bay News-Chronicle during the inactive streak. "I just have to wait my turn, and when it happens, it will."
In minicamps this year, Reynolds showed spark. He received kudos from the staff and teammates, but in the end, it may have been a classic case of much too little too late. Reynolds' recent victories came against inexperienced players in one-on-one drills.
"I'd like to see Jamal in pads," director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie said at the second mini-camp. "You want to see big guys and how they move in shorts. But your speed guys, you want to see them in pads."
There's simply not enough there to warrant the roster bonus of $217,250 which would have been paid to Reynolds on July 15. That money is gambled against the possibility that Reynolds – only 25 – could be a late bloomer and take off with the Colts.
That's a risk the Packers were willing to take. In doing so, the Packers lent as much dignity as possible to the end of Reynolds' career, and to the personnel savvy of now-GM Sherman, who took the post two months after Reynolds' came into the fold.