Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Look for Feel-Good Finish for Several Players, Game May Be Last Time in Teal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Look for Feel-Good Finish for Several Players, Game May Be Last Time in Teal

Article excerpt

EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. -- The Jaguars have several themes for the season finale, most notably to glean a final good feeling from a season that has been a mix of good and bad.

What Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said isn't a pregame theme, though, is the idea that today's game is an end to an era, the final time some long-familiar names will play together in a Jaguars uniform.

"That won't be something that's a topic," Coughlin said as the Jaguars (7-8) prepared to play the New York Giants (11-4) today at 12:35 p.m. at Giants Stadium.

That has been Coughlin's stance in recent weeks, that even with the playoffs no longer possible, the only goal is winning. This week, he said extra motivation for the season-ender is obvious. The Giants are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and Coughlin said the feeling from beating a quality team can carry into what promises to be one of the team's busiest off-seasons.

There are other story lines today, too.

Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his last nine games, angered the Giants this week by saying their defense wasn't as talented as other defenses the Jaguars have played this season. Giants defenders vowed to use the words as motivation.

Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith, who caught 116 passes last year, has 91 this season, and can become the fifth player in NFL history to catch 100 in back-to-back seasons.

But even if the future wasn't on the mind of Coughlin this week, several players said it was somewhere in theirs that today's game could be their last with the Jaguars.

"I'd be lying if I said people don't think about it, or that guys don't mention it every once in a while," Jaguars punt returner Reggie Barlow said.

Barlow, a 1996 fourth-round draft choice, is one of several long-time players from the Jaguars' 1996-1999 playoff teams who may not return. Although much will depend on off-season negotiations, the Jaguars are an estimated $33 million over the projected $66 million salary cap for the 2000 season, and must trim the payroll.

That means the off-season will be about decisions.

Punter Bryan Barker, fullback Daimon Shelton, offensive tackle Todd Fordham, center Jeff Smith and tight end Damon Jones (on injured reserve) are among the team's unrestricted free agents. They will have the option of re-signing with the Jaguars or signing with another team when the free agency period begins March 2.

There will be tougher decisions, too. Quarterback Mark Brunell, offensive tackle Leon Searcy (also on injured reserve), center Quentin Neujahr, defensive end Joel Smeenge, Barlow, safety Carnell Lake (injured reserve) offensive guard Zach Wiegert (injured reserve) and linebacker Lonnie Marts (injured reserve) have salary cap figures so high they may not return next season. …

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