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Open Locker Room: Jones-Drew confident

Posted Dec 11, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars focus on keeping approach consistent; running back Maurice Jones-Drew rehabs hamstring as Jaguars prepare for Buffalo Bills

JACKSONVILLE – Next up, Buffalo.

And as the Jaguars gathered at EverBank Field Wednesday, players said what they have said much of the past few days, weeks and months:

That the focus remains on just that – the next game.

In this case, Jaguars players said Wednesday that very much means the focus on the Buffalo Bills and not personal milestones or injured players or even a winning streak that has made the Jaguars for the last month feel very much like a team with momentum.

All of those things are great, players said early Wednesday . . .

They’re just not the focus.

“We just want to keep on improving the way we did last week and the weeks prior to that,” Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne said as the Jaguars (4-9) prepared to play the Bills (4-9) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

“Obviously there are things to get better on in the game tape we watched (from a victory over Houston last Thursday).  We’ve had a little break. But it’s more about getting that enthusiasm and that edge back on our shoulders going into this game.”

The Jaguars are preparing for the Bills with the status of their leading rusher uncertain.

Maurice Jones-Drew, who has rushed for more yards in the last three games than in any three-game stretch this season, sustained a hamstring injury in a victory over the Houston Texans last Thursday. He will be listed as questionable this week and isn’t expected to practice until Friday.

Jones-Drew said Wednesday he is feeling much better than immediately after the injury. He iced the area and received massages over the weekend and earlier in the week, and he did swimming therapy on the area in recent days.

“We’ve decided to wait until Friday to test it out,” said Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has rushed for 84, 77 and 103 yards in victories over Houston, Cleveland and Houston the past three weeks.

“The goal is to be playing on Sunday and that’s what we’re working toward. We’ll try to get there as soon as possible. … To me, I want to play. Trust me. You don’t want to make it worse, so you have to make sure it’s healed the right way and be smart in that situation.”

Jones-Drew said he could even wait until Saturday to test the hamstring.

“I’m confident I’ll be able to go the way things have been going and the things we’ve been doing,” Jones-Drew. “I think we’ll be all right.”

Jones-Drew, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2009-2011, has rushed for 719 yards on 208 carries this season, and said while 1,000  yards is a goal for running backs there are more important objectives this season.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Jones-Drew said. “Getting this organization on the right track is the most important thing right now. We’re heading that way.”

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, meanwhile, said while 1,000 yards receiving indeed his goal it’s not something that can think about during the course of a season.

“You can’t play for stats,” Shorts said. “You play to win. That’s my mindset. Play to win, everything else will come. If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Shorts, who missed the mark by 21 yards last year, has caught 66 passes for 777 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Shorts, like Jones-Drew, said said individual goals and concerns pale in comparison to maintaining momentum. Not that maintaining momentum is necessarily about focusing on winning or losing. That has been Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley’s focus throughout the course of the season, and players credit that approach – and a focus on daily competition – with helping them win four of five games following an 0-8 start.

The four victories in five games have kept the Jaguars mathematically alive in the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC. To qualify, the Jaguars would need to win their final three games and have the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins each lose the final three games. They also need San Diego, Pittsburgh and the Jets to lose twice and Oakland and Cleveland to lose once. There are various ways those scenarios could happen, but the chances are very slim.

“We just have to continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Shorts said. “You’ve heard it before from every player in here, but, ‘Continue to get better. Stick to the course. Stay true to who you are.’ If you look at the year and how it’s progressed for us, that’s why we’ve won four of the last five: we continue to get better, work hard and trust in our preparation.”

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