Leaner Knighton nears full recovery for Jaguars

Terrance Knighton’s vision is nearly back to normal and his

waistline is smaller than it’s been in years.

Both are encouraging signs for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Although Knighton remains on the physically unable to perform

list, the run-stuffing defensive tackle has been a pleasant

surprise for the Jaguars in training camp. The player nicknamed

”Pot Roast” showed up weighing ”sub-330 pounds” and with vision

that is closing in on perfect.

”I feel great and I’m just ready to get out there now,”

Knighton said.

That’s welcome news since there were serious concerns about his

health just three months ago.

Knighton injured his left eye while trying to break up a bar

fight in early April. Knighton was hit on the top of his head with

a bottle, which shattered, and a piece of glass cut his eye.

The lineman needed staples in his head and stitches in his eye.

He temporarily lost vision and required a second eye surgery to

remove a cataract that formed for protection. His vision slowly

returned and has steadily improved with every optometrist visit. At

an appointment last week, he was able to read some letters on the

20/20 line. He has 20/15 vision in his right eye.

”The doctor is very happy with the progress, and there’s

nothing really holding me back now from being out there,” Knighton

said.

The Jaguars are being cautious, though. They don’t want to risk

putting him in contact drills until his eye is fully healed. He has

eight stiches left to be removed.

Coaches and front-office personnel expressed concern in April

that Knighton’s injury, which didn’t allow him to work out as

vigorously as normal for several weeks, could lead to weight gain.

Knighton has fought to keep his weight down since Jacksonville

selected him in the third round of the 2009 draft. He ballooned to

about 370 pounds during the NFL lockout last year.

But in the final year of his rookie contract, Knighton has extra

motivation to stay in shape. He lost about 20 pounds over the past

two months and looked noticeably leaner when he arrived at

camp.

”He looks good,” coach Mike Mularkey said. ”I appreciate the

efforts he’s made to get him to that point. It’s taken some work on

his part. It’s going to take him as much to stay at that level.

He’s not just going to work up to it for five weeks and `OK, I made

it; it’s over.’ It’s every day from here on out. He’s got to

maintain that. That’s going to be harder than what he just

did.”

Knighton could end up being the team’s feel-good story of camp,

and maybe a much-needed one. After all, the Jaguars are without

disgruntled running back Maurice Jones-Drew and first-round draft

pick Justin Blackmon, and Mularkey raised eyebrows around the

league by instituting fines up to $10,000 for players who publicly

talk about injuries.

Players insist they have no problem with the rule.

Jones-Drew and Blackmon are much bigger concerns for

Jacksonville.

Jones-Drew failed to report, his latest attempt to get the team

to renegotiate his contract. He has two years remaining on a

five-year, $31 million deal that was front-loaded. Blackmon’s

holdout centers on language the Jaguars wants in his contract to

protect them in case he has a third alcohol-related incident. He

pleaded guilty last week to aggravated DUI in Stillwater, Okla.

It’s anyone guess how long they’re absent.

Knighton, meanwhile, should be back to full contact soon. The

eye injury gave him quite a scare, but the faster-than-expected

recovery and the weight loss have him believing he can have his

best season.

”I feel like I’ll be a lot quicker, more explosive,” said

Knighton, who has 198 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks in three seasons. ”I

want to be on the field when it’s third and long. That’s where guys

make their mark in the league – getting to the quarterback. I feel

like now that my weight is down, I should be the guy out there on

third down making an impact.”