Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended his 38-day holdout Sunday and returned to the team just one week before its season opener at Minnesota.
What exactly did the holdout accomplish? In terms of contractual negotiation, absolutely nothing. Jones-Drew will begin the season without a new deal from the Jaguars.
But the 27-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl rusher has no regrets for standing his ground.
“It really wasn’t about budging,” Jones-Drew said. “For me, it got to the point where I wasn’t going to be traded. Obviously, they weren’t going to pay me. I could have easily sat out until week 10, come back and been a distraction. It wasn’t about that. I’m not going to come back and distract guys from playing the game the right way.”
How long will it be before Jones-Drew regains the starting job?
Assuming he’s in shape, the Jaguars would be wise to get their workhorse back into the action as soon as possible.
Over the last three seasons, Jones-Drew totaled 954 carries for 4,321 yards and 28 touchdowns. In that span, Jennings is the second-leading rusher for Jacksonville with 661 yards on just 123 carries. And with Jennings sidelined for all of 2011, Jones-Drew received a career-high 343 carries while backup Deji Karim got just 63.
The Jaguars offense runs through MJD, and that should not change in Mularkey’s offense. Last year in Atlanta, Mularkey’s leading rusher, Michael Turner, got 301 carries to 57 for second-leading rusher Jacquizz Rodgers.
Mularkey will assess Jones-Drew’s playing shape after Wednesday’s fully padded practice.
“If you look at him physically, yes, I’d say he looks game ready,” Mularkey said. “I have to see more than just an hour and a half of practice.”
And while Jones-Drew will yield to Mularkey’s decisions on playing time, he feels he’s ready to go.
“That’s not my call,” Jones-Drew said. “I’ve already told you if I can carry the ball 80 times in a game, I would carry it 80 times in the game. We know that.”
Fantasy football team owners know it, too. And those who gambled on Jones-Drew in their draft could soon be rewarded.