JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 5: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers dumps a pass under pressure from defensive tackle Terrance Knighton #96 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Monday Night Football game December 5, 2011 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
One of the biggest stories of the 2011 Jaguars training camp and preseason was the conditioning of defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. After the lockout that spanned through the spring and summer, Knighton showed up to camp in late July way out of shape and was told by Jack Del Rio that he wouldn't be allowed until he reached a playing weight.
Two weeks later Knighton finally joined the team for practices after missing the first preseason game for the Jaguars against the Patriots.
His struggles with his weight has made the Jaguars wary about paying the defensive tackle. If a player has work ethic issues and struggles to motivate themselves to stay in shape it is generally not going to be helped by giving that player a contract and less incentive to stay in shape.
That's why GM Gene Smith has reportedly challenged Knighton to prove he can take care of himself this offseason.A series of tweets from Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union revealed the challenge issued to Knighton this offseason.
#Jaguars DT Terrance Knighton said GM Gene Smith told him if he takes care of his weight, he'll get a payday that'll set his family for life— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 3, 2012
On the other hand, Knighton was told if he doesn't, he'll just be another guy going year to year with little security. #Jaguars— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 3, 2012
Knighton said this offseason is the most important of his career to show the team he can take care of himself while he's away. #Jaguars— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 3, 2012
Regardless whether Knighton succeeds in his pursuit the story of his conditioning will likely be one that follows him throughout his career. There's certainly no assurance that if Knighton keeps his weight down this offseason with a new contract on the line that he'll do so in future offseasons with the contract already in hand.