Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Means' Future Up in Air

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Means' Future Up in Air

Article excerpt

CINCINNATI -- Last fall, Natrone Means rolled the dice --

always a chancy proposi tion. Means gambled on him self.

At the request of the Jaguars for cap relief, Means agreed to

restructure his 1996 salary and take a pay cut in 1997 from a

base of $1.7 million to $850,000. In exchange, the Jaguars

agreed to void the final year of his contract in 1998, giving

him a chance to become a free agent.

At the time, it appeared to be a good move for the Jaguars.

Means wasn't playing much, and hadn't shown the form that made

him a Pro Bowl player in San Diego in 1994.

Means, though, knew he was capable of so much more. He knew if

given the chance he would show he could still be a featured

back.

In the final five weeks, and through the Jaguars' playoff run,

Means proved just that. He increased his rushing totals the

final five weeks of the season and by the playoffs was solidly

in as the Jaguars' No 1. back.

Then in the playoffs he shined. Means, showing the great feet

and power that made him a star in San Diego, gained 315 yards on

52 carries in the Jaguars' two playoff victories.

The gamble, it appeared, had paid off.

That was then. Now, 11 months later, the dice are still in the

air, with Means anticipating the next roll.

That's because the next five weeks will determine if he craps

out or rolls five consecutive sevens with plenty of dough on the

table.

Means has not had the season he would have hoped. Nicked by

ankle problems all year -- right from the start of training camp

-- Means has gained just 488 yards on 154 carries for a 3.2

average. He missed two games in the middle of the season with a

high-ankle sprain and only this week did he start feeling close

to 100-percent.

He has also been sharing time with James Stewart, which makes

it difficult to get the carries he needs to become the type of

runner he was in the playoffs.

"Expectations were higher," Means said. "But I'll be OK."

The Jaguars talked earlier this year with Means' agent,

Brantley Evans, about a possible contract extension. …

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