JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler expressed little concern about his one-game suspension, his shoulder injury or his future with the franchise.
The 23-year-old Fowler was equally nonchalant about the progress he seemingly made in the past year.
“Did I go to jail?” he said following the team’s first training camp practice Thursday. “There we go.”
Fowler spoke publicly for the first time since the NFL suspended him without pay for the season opener at the New York Giants, a one-game penalty for attacking a man in a parking lot near his hometown in July 2017.
Fowler eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery, criminal mischief and petty theft. The case was closed in March, with Fowler sentenced to a year of probation and 75 hours of community service.
The NFL handed down its punishment last week.
“We really already knew it was going to happen,” said Fowler, who will be eligible to play Week 2 against New England. “It’s a situation that happened last year so the NFL finally took it into their hands this year. We talked and they told me what it was going to be. I just appreciate them hearing me out, hearing my side of the story. It could have always been worse, so I’m going to just take this game and be ready when we come back for the Patriots.”
The suspension will cost him $214,000.
Missing additional games could cost him even more.
The Jaguars declined to exercise the fifth-year option in Fowler’s rookie contract in May, likely meaning the third overall pick in the 2015 draft will become a free agent after this season.
A career year could mean a lucrative deal elsewhere.
“Go out there and play as best as I can every Sunday,” he said. “That’s it.”
Fowler has 53 tackles and 12 sacks in two seasons. He missed his rookie year after tearing a ligament in his left knee during the first day of a rookie minicamp.
He played in every game since his return, but mostly as a backup to Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue. The Jags apparently don’t view Fowler in the team’s long-term plans, which is why they declined to pay him $14.2 million in 2019.
His off-filed troubles are partly to blame.
The former Florida standout was arrested last year after confronting a 55-year-old man who made a comment about his driving. St. Petersburg police said Fowler exchanged words with the man before hitting him and knocking off his glasses. Fowler then stepped on the glasses before taking the man’s grocery bag and tossing it in a lake.
Fowler also was arrested in Miami Beach in March 2016 and charged with misdemeanor counts of assault against a police officer and resisting arrest without violence. The charges were later dropped. That arrest came a little more than two weeks after a video surfaced showing Fowler refereeing a violent fight between his girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend. He also has a long list of traffic violations.
“It is something where you have to go out every day and you have to prove (yourself) until you get to a level of consistency where there is trust,” coach Doug Marrone said. “I think it is a matter of doing the right things each and every day, and we will see how it goes.”
Fowler’s health is his biggest concern these days.
He injured his left shoulder late last season and opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. Incapable of lifting weights for part of the offseason, Fowler lost some pounds. But much like everything else, he doesn’t see it as a concern.
“Well, I’m actually big,” he said with a smile. “I honestly think it won’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Weight does not matter with this one. I’m a straight dog. It don’t matter. Once I put on them pads, it’s a wrap. I’m just getting stronger. Coaches are looking out for me and being concerned and looking out for my health, so all I can do is just get stronger and you guys will know when I’m out there again.”