Karim gives Jags boost on offense, special teams
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Deji Karim is accustom to being unnoticed.
He played high school football with quarterback Sam Bradford and followed running back Brandon Jacobs at Southern Illinois.
Karim's getting much more attention these days, especially after his NFL debut.
Karim had 215 all-purpose yards in Jacksonville's 36-26 victory at Buffalo on Sunday. He returned four kickoffs for 145 yards, putting the offense in position for two field goals and two touchdowns. His last return, a 41-yarder in the third quarter, helped set up the go-ahead score.
He also gained 70 yards on 15 carries, filling in for Maurice Jones-Drew and averaging more yards per carry than the team's star player.
''Showed some juice in the return game and got some touches as a running back and did a nice job,'' coach Jack Del Rio said Monday.
Karim, a sixth-round draft pick in April, waited longer than expected for his chance. He injured his left thumb in the preseason, had surgery to repair ligament damage and spent the last two months trying to get back to 100 percent. He made the 53-man roster, but was inactive the first four games.
''He was practicing with this club,'' Del Rio said. ''Until he got rid of that, until the doctors cleared him out of that, we couldn't use him. The doctors finally paved the way for us to get him up and active.''
The Jaguars (3-2) were content to wait, especially after seeing what Karim could do in offseason workouts and training camp.
Karim, meanwhile, was a little antsy. He prepared every week just in case his number was called. Nonetheless, he felt butterflies all week after coaches told him he would make his debut and struggled to fall asleep Saturday night.
Once the game arrived, though, he felt more at ease.
''They've been preparing me to go out there and work as if it was a practice,'' Karim said. ''That's what I've been doing, getting the reps in practice. I was hoping it would transfer over to the football field, and it did. That's what I've been doing.''
The Jaguars, who host Tennessee next Monday night, expect Karim to continue returning kickoffs. He also could spell Jones-Drew, who has been banged up all season.
Jones-Drew missed the final two preseason games because of a balky knee, then missed some practice time during the regular season because of a sprained ankle. He left Sunday's game after injuring his right wrist on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Jones-Drew rolled around on the ground in pain. Trainers checked him out on the sideline and he returned for the next drive. But he sat out the rest of the way. Del Rio said X-rays revealed no damage.
''It was kind of sore here, there, then all of a sudden it was fine,'' Del Rio said. ''Whatever was going on, he's pretty quiet usually out there. He's taken some shots and delivered some shots, and usually you don't hear a whole lot (from him). He was making some noise, which made me concerned. But he's fine.''
''He's been taking a little bit of a beating,'' Garrard said. ''We need some more guys to step up and be able to spell him a little bit, so that he can continue to stay fresh. It's a long season. It's a marathon, not a sprint.''
So Karim could be stay in the mix and might even get some notice.
''Doing everything I can to help my team, special teams, running back, whatever they ask me to do out there,'' Karim said. ''I try to stay humble and tell them it was an all-right game. I did what they asked me to do. I had a lot of mistakes.''