On Saturday, the underachieving Jaguars got assistance from an inside source, one who will certainly help in trying to slow the Kansas City offense, when starting free safety Deon Grant was cleared to play in the season finale.
The seven-year veteran missed considerable practice time this week after suffering a strained hamstring in last week's loss to New England, but was able to participate in the Friday walk-through session, and showed no ill effects on Saturday.
"It's one of those games," Grant said, "where you have to play. It's all hands on deck, you know?"
Grant was listed as doubtful all week on the injury report, but aggressive treatment of the strained hamstring resulted in steady improvement. Grant has not missed a game since sitting out his entire rookie season, with Carolina in 2000, with a hip injury that some considered career-threatening at the time.
Having the versatile Grant in the lineup for the game at Arrowhead Stadium is a key for the Jacksonville defense. The Jaguars are already playing without starting strong safety Donovin Darius , who is on injured reserve, and who has been replaced by second-year pro Gerald Sensabaugh for the past five games.
If Grant had been ruled out for Sunday, untested rookie Jamal Fudge, an undrafted free agent, probably would have started at free safety. Grant is the kind of all-around safety a defense needs to be effective against the Chiefs, because he can play close to the line of scrimmage on running downs and help against tailback Larry Johnson , but can also drop and cover tight end Tony Gonzalez in some third-down situations.
In 15 starts this season, Grant has 54 tackles, two interceptions, five passes defensed and one fumble recovery. The former University of Tennessee standout, who was drafted by Carolina in the second round in 2000 and then signed with the Jaguars as a free agent in 2004, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring.
Jacksonville officials have made overtures about a contract extension, and Grant has said his preference is to remain with the Jaguars.