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Collier Shooting Changes Life With Jaguars

From the first steps I took into Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Wednesday, I knew this would not be a normal day. And why should it be? Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier lay in a bed in Intensive Care at Shands while his teammates pulled on their practice gear.

Typically on Wednesday, the assembled media members go into the locker room around 11:30 and conduct the interviews you hear on the radio, see on television and read about in the paper. Then we head to the media lobby, where Jack Del Rio first addresses the electronic media–the radio, TV and video based internet folks–before departing to the writer’s room to be grilled by the scribes.

But Wednesday, there was some chaos. First, Jack Del Rio made a change to the schedule. He decided to address the media first, before the locker room was opened. And he chose to address everyone at once.

Why does Del Rio usually split his press conference? There have been a lot of answers, but I believe that the biggest reason is that he doesn’t want to be constrained by the camera’s when answering questions from some writers, who tend to really go after him.

Del Rio doesn’t want to look combative on TV, especially when the video tends to show up on ESPN and NFL Network.

But on Wednesday, the head coach wanted everybody in the same room. I’m told that Del Rio was prepared to go after some members of the media who have questioned the team’s discipline or who had been pointing the finger at Collier for being out too late. He never really laid into anyone, although when asked if it bothered him about people making a connection with the off-the-field problems that have happened recently.

“Intelligent people, I think, can differentiate,” Del Rio said.

So then, we head to the locker room that was mostly empty. As you can imagine, there are a lot of players who don’t want to talk about the shooting. For fear of saying the wrong thing or perhaps because they are still dealing with the emotions themselves.

Some of the Jaguars veterans were there. David Garrard, Fred Taylor, Rashean Mathis, Paul Spicer were there. All had just named as team captains along with Darryl Smith. Mike Peterson spoke briefly to a few writers, then left. Maurice Williams, a veteran who is strong in his faith was available as well.

There were a few others.

The one guy who seems to be hit the hardest by this is Clint Ingram. He’s Collier’s best friend on the team and he spend around 15 hours at the hospital on Tuesday. He and Collier are kindred spirits, always cutting up and joking together. Rarely does a day go by that they don’t hang out. That made Wednesday particularly difficult on Ingram.

Being at practice gave some respite–a distraction. But there are reminders of Collier’s absence everywhere.

Different jerseys stepping in at left tackle with the second team.

An empty seat in the offensive line meeting.

A number 76 practice jersey still hanging in Collier’s locker.

Some players hoped this incident would bring them closer together and that it would lend some motivation to Sunday’s game in Nashville. They say they realize the task at hand is to prepare for the Titans, but I will be surprised if they can keep Collier out of their minds.

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