JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Jaguars announced on Thursday morning the release of Donovin Darius.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound safety was drafted in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft by the Jaguars out of Syracuse.
Darius was let go after spending a decade with the team. In his last two years on the field, the safety suffered season-ending injuries.
In his 10-year career with the Jags, the team leader started more games than any other defensive player in franchise history.
Darius told Channel 4 he was busy rehabbing his injured leg when he was pulled aside at training camp and told he was being let go.
"I had no idea. You know, I'd been rehabbing and doing everything I needed to do to prepare for training camp. To go out there and prepare myself for another season, so I had no idea -- none at all," Darius said.
Coach Jack Del Rio's explanation of Darius' release was not very detailed as he said the team simply decided that it was time to move on.
"The decision that we have made is to go ahead and allow him to pursue other opportunities and for us to move on as a football team," Del Rio said.
Darius said he understands that football is a business and that there are no hard feelings.
"He said remember one thing, 'They're always trying to replace you with somebody younger, faster and cheaper.' I've always understood that, so my whole career I've always approached every year as if it was my job to earn," Darius said.
With the 21st pick in 2007 NFL Draft, the Jaguars chose University of Florida safety Reggie Nelson.
"Of course, the Jags did pick Reggie Nelson with their first-round pick, and I can tell in a conversation I had with Jack Del Rio on draft day about that particular position, he knew that Reggie Nelson was not going to sit on the bench and that they really like Gerald Sensabaugh. Jack told me that if Donovin's injury did not respond the way they expected, that they would move Sensabaugh over to the strong safety position and have Nelson start at the weak safety position. Obviously, that's exactly what has happened," said Channel 4's sports director Sam Kouvaris.
The players at camp on Thursday said they were shocked by Darius' release but that it's something they need to get beyond.
"We tilt our hats to him. We love him. He's been a Jaguar all his life, so there are some big shoes to fill," said Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis.
"I'm just out to help the team, and Donovin Darius helped me do that. I'm going to continue to take his learning and run with it," Nelson said.
"I wish I had a lot of his attributes. It's going to be hard to fill Donovin's shoes, but I'm going to do the best that I can to fill his shoes," Sensabaugh said.
Outside of his extraordinary play on the field, Darius is known for his diligent work in the community.
Both Darius and Del Rio said despite the separation they still share tremendous respect.
"Donovin Darius is an outstanding human being. He has been an excellent player for us. He is tremendous in the community. He is a classy guy," Del Rio said.
"This is home for me. Jacksonville is home -- it will be home unless God says otherwise," Darius said.
He said he plans on preparing to play for another team because he feels he still has a lot left to give.
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