JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Coach Mike Mularkey took the blame for keeping veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis on the sideline in Buffalo.
Mularkey said Monday he “just made a mistake” by sticking with second-year player Kevin Rutland in a 34-18 loss to the Bills.
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Rutland got beat for a 51-yard gain on Buffalo’s opening drive, which ended with a touchdown, and looked lost on Stevie Johnson’s 13-yard TD reception early in the third.
Mathis watched both plays from the sideline, confused by being on the bench and convinced he could have made a difference.
“This is not to bash anybody. This is not to spark a big, `What’s going on with Rashean thing,'” said Mathis, who was inactive for three games last month because of a groin injury. “I do have a voice, and this is the little voice I want to be understood. … I feel good. I feel like I’m in a position to help my team win.”
Mathis said he “could have a right to act up” since he’s a 10-year veteran who has started 129 games. But he took the high road, avoiding any potential conflicts with the team he has played for since being drafted in the second round in 2003.
Mularkey, meanwhile, made it clear that Mathis will play more beginning Sunday against the New York Jets (5-7). He might have to since starters Derek Cox (hamstring) and Aaron Ross (calf) are nursing injuries.
Mathis played 50 snaps the previous week against Tennessee, after Cox and Ross left the game with injuries.
Mularkey gave no real answer when asked why Mathis was seemingly benched against the Bills.
“It’s nobody’s fault but mine,” Mularkey said. “I wish I’d him in there earlier. It’s not like they were throwing the ball 40 times, but I should have had him in there, in the game, and addressed it with him, knowing he was going to be talked to.”
Regardless, the way the season has unfolded has Mathis thinking about the possibility of playing his final four games with his hometown team.
“I’m not saying I haven’t thought about it,” Mathis said. “That would be lying. It’s just what are you concentrating on. That’s the main thing. What I’m concentrating on is what I’m going to do today and then tomorrow and the next. That will allow other things to play out.”
Mathis signed a one-year deal in March that could be worth up to $5 million. It included a $1 million signing bonus and a $950,000 base salary — a low-risk deal that protected the team by re-signing a 32-year-old player coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Mathis could have earned the remaining $3.05 million in incentives tied to playing time.
But playing just eight snaps against the Bills sure seemed like his days in Jacksonville are numbered.
“You’ve been somewhere for so long you get comfortable,” Mathis said. “I’ve seen Freddy (Taylor) go. I’ve seen Donovin Darius go. I’ve seen guys go. I know that’s the nature of the business, so I’m not naive. I’ve seen the best Jaguars in the history of the franchise get let go and go to another team. I’m not naive. It’s reality. Michael Jordan went to another team. Who am I? That’s just the nature of the business, the nature of sports.
“And if you can’t face that reality, something is wrong. I can look in the mirror and I can face reality. I’m a logical person. I try to be as real as I can be with myself.”
For Mathis, who has mostly avoided controversy, his comments proved to be as much popping off as he’s done in a decade.
“I’m going to do things the right way,” said Mathis, who vowed to play somewhere next season. “I tweaked my groin, and I respect the coaches in saying they didn’t want me to favor one side over the other. Taking a couple weeks off helped and it made me stronger. I was concentrating on lifting and building my leg stronger, which you don’t have time to do if you’re practicing every day and taking reps like that, so the rest help.
“But it’s only so much rest I need. I’m going to leave it at that.”