He’s back, and
It means being ready to play – now, not later.
It means being in shape.
And it means having the right attitude.
Jones-Drew, who on Sunday ended a 38-day holdout by reporting to the Jaguars without a new contract a week before the regular-season opener, said he very definitely is ready, fit and feeling good about being with the team for which he has played his first six NFL seasons.
And yes, he said, the situation is in the past.
“There was nothing to be gained,” the 2012 NFL rushing champion said during a press conference early Sunday afternoon at EverBank Field. “It was a dispute over money, at the end of the day. There was no, ‘Won or lost.’’’
“We’re over it. It’s solved for the time being and we’re ready to roll.”
Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl running back, missed the Jaguars’ offseason, training camp and preseason in an effort to have the Jaguars renegotiate the five-year contract he signed in 2009. Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith and Owner Shad Khan said repeatedly the team did not plan to renegotiate.
In the end, Jones-Drew reported without a new deal, but the team – like Jones-Drew – moved forward quickly Sunday.
“It’s great to have Maurice back in the building,” Smith said. “He has been a valuable part of this organization, and his presence in the locker room and on the field will make those around him better. We’re glad to now have everyone in and working as a team to win football games.”
Jones-Drew said while Sunday was the first day he and new Head Coach Mike Mularkey met face-to-face, too much was made in the offseason about the two not reaching out to one another. Jones-Drew, who said the two texted upon Mularkey getting the job in January, said their meeting Sunday lasted 35-to-40 minutes and went well.
“There are no hard feelings,” Jones-Drew said. “We’re going to keep moving forward.”
Mularkey said he looked forward to working with Jones-Drew.
“I had a really good visit this morning with Maurice and I welcomed him in,” Mularkey said. “It was good to finally speak face-to-face. I can tell he’s ready to go, so we’ll be working with him to get him up to speed as quickly as possible.
“It’s great to be able to proceed with our preparation for the opener and the season beyond with Maurice as part of the plans.”
Jones-Drew early in the press conference addressed comments made late in the holdout by Khan, who in late August said, “The train is leaving the station. Run, get on it.”
Jones-Drew said he was disappointed by Khan’s comments.
“I expect you guys or people outside the organization to make comments like that,” he said. “You expect a little more appreciation, but at the end of the day we’re discussing something that’s very fragile in this business and very fragile in this game. Certain people handle certain things different ways.
“It is what it is, but I’m ready to play football now and get to it. It’s over now.”
Khan on Sunday he was “delighted” Jones-Drew had reported.
“I know Maurice will be very impressed with the winning environment and attitude that Coach Mularkey has created, and I am sure MJD’s teammates are fired up to welcome him home,” Khan said. “The Jaguars are a better football team today than we were yesterday, and now our entire franchise can move forward together and as one. Nothing more needs to be said. Go Jaguars!”
Jones-Drew on Sunday said the focus was indeed on preparing as quickly as possible. The Jaguars visit the Minnesota Vikings in the regular-season opener September 9, and Mularkey said this past week he expected
Jones-Drew said he had no expectations for whether he will start Sunday, or his role, but said he believed he will be ready to contribute immediately.
“I think I’m game-ready now,” he said, adding, “My goal is to come in and learn the offense and do whatever I can to help the offense and help this team win.”
Jones-Drew said he had the Jaguars’ playbook from organized team activities, but not the one from training camp. Because the Jaguars installed a new offense in the offseason, Jones-Drew said his focus now is getting used to the terminology and getting repetitions.
“I got the gist of a lot of things,” he said.
Jones-Drew didn’t practice until Week 4 last season while returning from knee surgery. He played in the final preseason game, then made the Pro Bowl for a third consecutive season.
“It’s just getting used to the way things are called,” Jones-Drew said. “Conditioning-wise, I expect to be fine.”
Jones-Drew declined to discuss if he will be fined for missing camp.
“That’s between me and the Jaguars,” he said.
Jones-Drew said he considered coming back in Week 10, or forcing a trade. He said his love of the game, and loyalty to teammates wouldn’t allow it. He said once it became apparent that “neither side was going to budge,” he wanted to do what was right for the team.
“For me, I’m back with my teammates and playing football, a game I love,” Jones-Drew said. “I’m just ready to get back with them. I can’t wait to get back and get going.”
He also said despite Khan and Smith saying throughout the process there would be no renegotiation, he believed he had to fight for what he felt was right.
“If I listened to what everyone’s told me what they were going to do or weren’t going to do, do you think I’d be here right now?” he said. “I knew it was going to be a difficult situation. I understood the whole point of it. But the way I was raised, if you believe something, fight.
“My production stated something. I fought. Plain and simple.”
As for whose decision it was to fight that fight, Jones-Drew said without question it was his and no one else’s. He said his agent advised him multiple times to report and work it out later
“It’s funny people try to say I didn’t make it,” he said. “To me, that’s ridiculous. It’s my life. I’m going to make the decision and I’m going to live with it. I have no regrets. If I was able to be born again, I’d do it the same way.”
While Jones-Drew has two years remaining on his contract, he said Sunday his focus now isn’t on whether the Jaguars will renegotiate next season. His focus, he said, is on doing what he can to show he is ready to play.
“I’m not going to come back and distract guys from playing the game the right way,” Jones-Drew said. “It ran its course. I’m ready to play football. That’s what I’m going to do. My mindset hasn’t changed. My production hasn’t changed. Obviously theirs hasn’t either.
“I’m going to do what I’ve been asked to do – play football to the best of my ability – and that’s it.”
Jones-Drew, who said during the holdout that he wanted to finish his career in Jacksonville, said he still felt that way because the Jaguars were the team that drafted him and gave him his NFL opportunity, He also said that above anything else, “I’m in a good place.”
“I did something I felt was right, and I’m always going to feel right,” he said. “I’m not going to feel wrong for doing what I did. That’s why I can come back and not have a negative attitude about it. Not one person here can say what I did was wrong.”