Don't Take Business Season Personal

(Chamberlain/JagNation)

The Jaguars opened their "voluntary" OTA's yesterday without the presence of veteran leader Rashean Mathis. Jack Del Rio's strong statements about the absence could lead one to believe that this is a major cause for concern.

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is trying to build an "all for one, one for all" team philosophy.

"Our culture in the locker room has changed over the last two years," Del Rio said following the team's first mini-camp a few weeks ago. "The paradigm of how we're doing things has changed. We're not going to tolerate things that aren't done with the intent of helping us win a championship."

As the Jaguars were working out yesterday "voluntarily," one noted absence was starting cornerback Rashean Mathis. Mathis has been rumored to be unhappy with his contract since last season as many of the top corners in his draft class are currently earning nearly double and some triple of Mathis' salary.

Mathis' monetary concerns caused him to make a statement by skipping "voluntary" team OTA's which drew the ire of Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio.

"Part of being dedicated is making sure you're here and arrive early," Del Rio said of Mathis' absence. "We had one guy who decided not to be here today. We're all free to make choices. In the end, our choices lead to consequences. I'm not happy with it. I don't support it."

Regardless of whether you believe this is an overreaction from the Jaguars head coach or Mathis was wrong in his decision to select a trip to a pancake breakfast over a trip to the team facilities, the one fact that's undeniable is that OTA's are voluntary, sort of.

NFL coaches by nature are complete control freaks. They want to control how players dress, what they eat, what they do when they're away from the team and most certainly, how hard they work.

It's understandable.

If players don't perform on the field, then the coach doesn't have a job.

There is another side to the story, a very important side. Rashean Mathis has been classified as "a good soldier" for the Jaguars organization ever since the team selected him in the second round of the 2003 draft. He's been one of the best defensive players in franchise history and he simply wants to be paid like his peers.

Should a player who's about to turn 30 before the end of preseason who plays a speed position get a new deal from the local, low-revenue team? That's not for us to decide, but we certainly understand the plight of Mathis. Rashean knows that the end of his career is more clearly in sight than the beginning, and one mis-step could end his career entirely.

If Mathis decides to show up to "voluntary" OTA's, the team would have even less urgency to take a look at his deal. Sure, it may be ruffling his head coach's proverbial feathers a bit, but for those of you who are clamoring for the Jaguars best player in the secondary to get traded, here's a quick message: relax.

Rashean Mathis keeps himself in stellar physical condition and when it's time for the real bullets to fly, Jaguars fans will not have to worry about the eight-year veteran.

This is the business season and the OTA's are voluntary. Regardless of what the head coach wants you to believe, championships are not won in May.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, and also the co-host of CB Sports Radio on ESPN 1420 in St. Augustine, FL. You can contact him at charlie@jagnation.com or follow him on twitter @nflcharlie

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