When wide receiver DJ Chark left the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency a year ago, he said at the time he was seeking a better culture fit with his new team. He found that in Detroit, where he signed a one-year deal with the Lions for $10 million.
It wasn’t the only option Chark had. There was another team, he said, but it didn’t feel right; Detroit did.
“I want to be around good people. These are good people,” Chark said last March, shortly after signing with the Detroit Lions. “It feels good to be wanted, I want to be where I’m wanted more than anything at the end of the day.”
About a week after making those comments, an expose appeared in The Athletic, shining a new light on Chark’s comments. The focus of the in-depth story was on the Jaguars’ toxic environment under coach Urban Meyer, who was fired after just 13 games in Jacksonville, going 2-11 with multiple off-field controversies along the way. There were several players quoted, but Chark was the only one who went on the record.
“You’ve got players in fear that they’re going to lose their jobs,” Chark said at the time. “You’ve got coaches who he belittled in front of us, and I can only imagine what he was doing behind closed doors. I’m surprised he lasted that long, to be honest with you.”
Appearing on the St. Brown Brothers podcast on Wednesday, Chark was asked about those dark days in Jacksonville with Meyer. While he didn’t retract what he said last March, he had a somewhat softer tone when it came to his former coach.
Here’s what the receiver had to say (edited for clarity):
“I think he’s a good person, I think he wants the best out of all players. Like I could go talk to Coach Meyer about anything I wanted to talk about. And he’ll talk back and we’ll have a conversation. Like, I’ll give him that.
“It was very misguided when he came to the league and coached us the way he knew best about how to get the best out of us. But you can’t do that in the league because, for me, I know what it’s like to reach a high level of success in the league already. I don’t really need the motivation from you to make me get up and work. I’ve got kids, same with all these people. … He just tried to motivate us in a way that didn’t really work for professional men. When he went through all the stuff that he went through, you know, they ultimately fired him at the end of the season. A lot of the stories that came out, I’m not here to say if they were true or false, but they were interesting.
“They wrote this big article in The Athletic about all the allegations and what people in the locker room were saying. And they interviewed a lot of us. But I was the only one that did the interview that allowed them to use my name. … I was like, if you’re gonna ask me questions about a man, then I’m going to give you what I think about this person. I’m not going to hide behind the words. I’m going to say this is who said it because obviously he’s going to read this article. … I just don’t want to feel like a coward. Because if you’re not man enough to use your name, then why say it?
“So I used my name for my part, but when people read the article, since I was the only one that used my name, it kind of seemed like I was the one saying all of it. … I just thought he deserved the respect for me to say it and put my name behind it. So that kind of messed up a lot of ideas about me and Jacksonville.
“But then the next year, all the players that were still in Jacksonville were talking about how they didn’t like Coach Meyer once they got Coach [Doug] Pederson there. So why you don’t say that like months ago? So now I’m out here on an island by myself, got me taking all the blame.”