Darius agrees to three-year extension
Jaguars safety says he will sign deal binding him to team through 2008 season.
By VITO STELLINO, The Times-Union

Declaring himself a "Jaguar for life,'' safety Donovin Darius agreed to a three-year contract extension Thursday that ties him to the Jaguars through the 2008 season.

Entering his eighth season, Darius, who'll turn 30 on Aug. 12, will be 33 and an 11-year veteran when the contract expires.

Darius, who will sign the contract extension today when he reports to training camp, said he had his agent, Tom Condon, approach the Jaguars about three weeks ago about an extension.

Darius, who will get the same $4.97 million he was due this year as a franchise player, didn't go into specifics while indicating he'll take less than this year's figure the next three years.

The decision to come to terms on a long-term deal was a stunning reversal for Darius, who had e-mailed reporters in Minneapolis and Miami earlier in the offseason and said he was interested in playing in those cities because he was frustrated the Jaguars put the franchise tag on him three years in a row.

The tag guarantees a player the average of the top five players at his position, but players like long-term deals with big signing bonuses.

The Jaguars came close to trading him to Minnesota, but the two teams had conflicting reports about the proposals and the talks ended when Darren Sharper became a free agent and the Vikings signed him.

Darius said at the time, "I couldn't play for the Jaguars with the same pride as I have the last seven years because I feel the organization is abusing the process. The Jaguars' emblem doesn't mean as much as it did to me early in my career because I feel the administration behind that emblem has been very unfair about the process. I will not have the same respect for the organization.''

Darius has apologized for those comments publicly and to owner Wayne Weaver and said he has put them behind him.

"It was the first time I vented some things out of frustration,'' he said. "I was a man about some of the things I said that I shouldn't have said. I was wrong.''

Darius has also connected with the fans by interacting with them on the team message board and by hosting a bowling night for about 70 fans.

He said he posted an item on the team message board Thursday night, comparing the Jaguars' season to the Tour de France with each of the 16 games one of the stages. He said the important thing was not to win every stage, but to finish first at the end.

"For me, I always thought being with one team my whole career was the ideal situation. I always wanted it to happen even in the last three years when I was being franchised,'' he said.

He said he's eager to have a big season and attract the fans in a year where the players could help save the franchise for Jacksonville by exciting the fans and enticing them to buy tickets.

"Success breeds a lot of fans so we need to be successful just for the organization, even if there wasn't a lot of controversy and conflict going on with the team. We're on the way up. We have the people, we have the chemistry to win,'' he said.