The Jacksonville Jaguars might have to alter their draft strategy.
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will miss at least the next three months of the team's offseason program following eye surgery. The Jaguars are hopeful the 340-pound run-stopper will make a full recovery, but general manager Gene Smith said Monday he doesn't know how quickly Knighton can get healthy.
"Your needs certainly change daily," Smith said. "Going into the draft, we're optimistic that he'll come out of this well. But there's no definites. Our hope is he will. Going into the draft I feel very good about where he's at at this point. I just don't know where he'll be three months from now."
Knighton had surgery April 8, hours after being hit with a bottle at a Jacksonville nightclub. Knighton was hit in the back of his head and his face when he was trying to break up a fight involving a friend. An incident report said Knighton was kicked out of the club and reportedly made threats to shoot people.
Knighton won't be at the team facility during workouts, a potential problem considering his history of weight issues.
"With the injury, his inability to lift, run, do anything physical, he will not be involved in the offseason for at least the next three months," coach Mike Mularkey said. "He is at home, trying to just heal. The healing process is going to take a while. It's really not an issue we're going to have to talk about because he's not going to be around here due to the injury, and the best place for him is at home for him right now."
Knighton reported to training camp more than 20 pounds overweight last year and spent the first few weeks getting into better shape. He vowed not to let it happen again, especially because this is the final year of his rookie contract.
Knighton has not spoken publicly since his surgery, but the former Temple standout and third-round pick posted on his Twitter page last week that he plans on making a full recovery.
If the Jaguars have any concerns, next week's draft is the perfect place to get some insurance. Smith and assistant general manager Terry McDonough said defensive tackle is the deepest position in the three-day draft.
The Jaguars have the seventh pick in Thursday night's first round. Although receiver, defensive end and cornerback remain the team's top needs, they now have to consider defensive tackle. Fellow starting defensive tackle Tyson Alualu is coming off knee surgery and 2010 third-round pick D'Anthony Smith, expected to be a key backup, hasn't played a down after spending his first two seasons on injured reserve.
Knighton's weight problems will be factored in, too.
"I'm sure Terrance is aware of the situation," Mularkey said, adding that Knighton will get an in-home visit from the team's nutritionist. "He's been aware of it the whole offseason. He came in here about a week ago, when our Phase I kicked off, and he was in good shape for this time of the year.
"It's been something he's addressed already early in this offseason and we're going to try to help him along in that process with a hands-on approach."