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Holdout Bryant Signs With Jags

First-round draft pick Fernando Bryant ended his 11-day holdout Monday, signing a five-year, $5.3 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The cornerback participated sparingly in the afternoon practice than said he was happy the holdout, the first protracted one in the Jaguars' short history, was over.

"I felt some pressure on myself," Bryant said. "But the bottom line is, I'm a football player. The other problem wasn't me. I'm out here to help the team. That's what I'm here to do."

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Bryant, a four-year starter at Alabama, sought a four-year contract, feeling that if he played well his first three seasons, he would have more leverage in a possible renegotiation.

The Jaguars are not in the practice of offering four-year deals to rookies and didn't change with this one, although the team didn't want to portray anybody as a winner or loser in the negotiations.

"There was never any animosity," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We had to work with the young man to get him here. Everyone wanted him here. We were disappointed he was not here. But it was a business deal. It's a win-win situation."

Bryant got a $2.1 million signing bonus, about $200,000 more than was initially on the table. He's slated to make $844,000 in his first year.

The deal came after he sat with Coughlin, senior vice president Michael Huyghue and owner Wayne Weaver and received assurances they would renegotiate if he has a successful first three years.

"They said if I come in and help the team the way I'm supposed to help the team, everything will be taken care of," Bryant said.

His arrival will heat up an already spirited battle for Jacksonville's starting cornerback position. Bryant was one of three players the Jaguars drafted at the position in an attempt to improve a pass defense rated 23rd last season.

Last year's starters, Dave Thomas and Aaron Beasley, were listed first on the depth chart heading into training camp. Coughlin said Bryant's absence from the team's first 14 practices doesn't preclude him from starting.

"We've got to see what kind of shape he's in, how well he can work," Coughlin said. "We'll see this week. The big thing is, he's in now and we've got a chance to work with him. He's way behind. But we've got a chance to work with him."

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