Peterson has mixed feelings about his future in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Linebacker Mike Peterson assumed his usual spot in the middle of Jacksonville's defense Wednesday. He's unsure how long he will remain there.

Peterson believes the Jaguars (4-5) are ready to move in another direction, willing to keep the 32-year-old team captain on the sideline for the rest of the season.

"The season's not going well, older guy, move him out of the way and get ready for next year," Peterson said Wednesday. "I guess that's the way it is. That's the way I'm taking it."

Peterson was sent home twice last week for insubordination, fined $10,000 by coach Jack Del Rio and then was inactive against Detroit. It was the first time in his 10-year career he missed a game without being injured.

The whole thing started when Del Rio criticized Peterson in a team meeting for a muscle-flexing celebration following a sack at Cincinnati. Peterson tried to defend himself, but Del Rio had already told players he didn't want to hear any excuses, so the coach sent him home.

Peterson returned the following day and was sent home again. Peterson and Del Rio worked out things Friday, but Del Rio still benched the team's leading tackler against the Lions.

Del Rio refused to answer questions about Peterson on Wednesday.

"There's nothing to talk about," Del Rio said. "Nothing to report on who's going to play and how much."

Although Peterson said he hasn't spoken to Del Rio since Sunday, he added he hasn't received any indication he will be back on the field this weekend against Tennessee.

"Wish I knew," Peterson said. "Right now, I'm on the sideline."

It probably didn't help Peterson's case that Jacksonville's defense had its best game of the season, albeit against the winless Lions. The unit allowed a season-low 256 yards and had a season-high seven sacks.

Daryl Smith, a former second-round draft pick, took over Peterson's starting spot and finished with seven tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.

Peterson still believes the Jaguars are better off with him roaming the middle of the field. But given his age, his contract status - he's in the final year of a six-year, $21 million deal - and his seemingly deteriorating relationship with Del Rio, he doesn't expect to be around next year.

So he's essentially auditioning for another job, and knows being on the bench won't help him get one.

"I go down swinging," Peterson said. "I don't just accept the role. I go down swinging. I'm not just going to hand it to anybody on a platter. If I get a chance to compete, I'm going to compete. At this point, I think it will be best for me not to say too much and just end it before I say the wrong thing. We know what happens when that happens."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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