Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis was cleared to practice by Dr. James Andrews. This is good news for the Jaguars as a whole, not just the secondary. And for the fans? The position battle between Mathis and newly acquired ex-Giant Aaron Ross will steadily become a focus as veteran mini-camp and training camp loom.
Veteran mini-camp begins June 12 and lasts through the 14th. With Mathis hitting the field for the first time since tearing his ACL in week ten against the Colts, the Jaguars get a leader of the franchise back to work with the team.
The value that Mathis’ leadership has for the team can’t be emphasized enough. When Mathis is healthy, the defensive unit plays better. When Mathis is around, the team practices harder. Mathis is a constant face for the Jaguars, the face of a defense that has seen its share of leaders leave over time. Together with Daryl Smith and Jeremy Mincey, Mathis is providing inspiration for a team that desperately needs premium performance from its defense to stay competitive due to a poor offense.
Coming back from an ACL tear is difficult for any player. Coming back from it in seven months? It’s practically a miracle. How good will Mathis be once he hits the field again? We can’t be certain, but it appears that he’s ready to compete and feels confident about his body.
The mentality of coming back from that kind of injury is half the battle. It’s tough to trust your body after it gives out on you. You have to relearn what your abilities are. You have to take your body through its paces, take your time, and trust that it’s all going to come back. You can’t force it.
Mathis is on Cloud Nine with news that he can practice again, but what speed will he be running at?
It may be tempting for Mathis to try and push it a bit with Ross coming into town. Ross provides an itch that will be tough to ignore for Mathis. An itch that may become a spark fairly quickly.
The position battle for the starting corner spot opposite Derek Cox is the first time Mathis has been contested at his position in a decade. The ten year veteran has been a staple since his rookie season. Seeing the familiar number 27 running across the field has been a highlight of the past decade for all fans. Could we ever get used to seeing Ross in Mathis’ spot?
I’m not certain that this is the year to be thinking like that. Mathis will start showing what he can do in a week at veteran mini-camp. The coaches will get their first look at a player who is relying on strong performances week in and week out to take home a much larger paycheck.
While we wait on the ability to evaluate Mathis, we’re excited to have him back!
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims