JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville linebacker Mike Peterson was sent home again Thursday and probably will be benched or suspended for this weekend's game at Detroit.
According to teammates, Del Rio called out Peterson for his muscle-flexing celebration following a shoestring sack at Cincinnati on Sunday. Del Rio was upset that Peterson was celebrating a play in a game the Jaguars trailed 21-3.
Peterson defended himself in the meeting, saying he was trying to give the team a spark in the game, but Del Rio didn't want to hear any excuses. The coach had even told players before he singled a few out that he didn't want to hear a word from anyone.
"That's the first time I've seen a coach and player just disagree in front of everybody to the extent that they did," defensive end Reggie Hayward said Thursday. "It's extremely surprising, but this is a business and when things aren't going right, tempers flare.
"They're both human. Everyone wants to win, and when we don't win, tempers flare, pride gets in the way and people have disagreements."
Peterson could not be reached for comment.
Del Rio could make Peterson inactive for Sunday's game against the Lions or he could suspend the former Florida standout without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. Either way, Del Rio made it clear he doesn't want Peterson around to cause a distraction this week.
"It was a surprise to everybody," linebacker Daryl Smith said. "We don't know what's going to happen. Regardless, we've got to get ready to play Detroit."
Peterson, the team's top tackler and emotional leader, is in the final year of a six-year, $21 million contract. He ripped the club during training camp for not offering him an extension in the offseason, but the Jaguars didn't want to guarantee any money to a 32-year-old linebacker who missed 17 games the last two seasons because of injuries.
His potential benching also could divide a locker room that's struggling to cope with losing its run-the-ball, stop-the-run identity that made Jacksonville one of the most physical teams in the league.
The Jaguars (3-5) have lost two straight and three of their last four. They are trying to avoid becoming the first in NFL history to lose back-to-back games to winless teams (Cincinnati and Detroit) this late in the season.
"Hopefully it will light a fire under us, hopefully it will spark us to go out and play better, to win some games and right the ship," Hayward said.
Although Del Rio didn't announce Peterson's punishment, running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew seemed to know what was coming.
"Guys are going to miss him, but it won't affect morale as far as bringing energy to the game," Taylor said.
Added Jones-Drew: "It's (Del Rio's) decision, and we have to live with it."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press