One down, one to go.
That's the situation as of Tuesday with the Jaguars' training camp holdouts, and with rookie Justin Blackmon having signed and now practicing with the team, Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said he remains confident running back Maurice Jones-Drew will play this season.
"I'm going to stay optimistic and believe that that's true," Smith said.
Smith and Jaguars Owner Shad Khan in recent months have said there are no plans to renegotiate with Jones-Drew, who is holding out of training camp because he wants a new contract. Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher last season and a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has two years remaining on his current contract.
Smith said Tuesday he has spoken to Jones-Drew and his agent.
"We always keep the dialogue open with all the players," he said, adding, "I think both sides have their position that they've stated. Certainly you hope in the end you hope things work out for the best. I always believe that there's a bright shining sun after every storm. I believe that.
"I live my life that way. This is difficult because two sides have a position and obviously two sides disagree on what it is. In the end sometimes you have to agree to disagree."
The idea in any negotiation is to get something that's fair.
In that sense, Smith said while getting Blackmon signed and into camp took longer than he wanted, the deal eventually reached was a fair one.
"When you go through negotiations there's compromise on both sides and it just took more time than normal to get it done," Smith said. "We're happy that it's done and he's here, so we will look forward."
The Jaguars were seeking safeguards in the contract in case Blackmon had further off-field issues. According to reports, about $4.8 million of Blackmon's signing bonus was deferred.
"You try to go in and do what's in the best interest," Smith said. "Obviously for me, it's for the team and for the agent, it's the player. In the end you want something that's fair. I feel like on both sides it was something that was fair relative to deals done in that range. The team got protection. Certainly, from a player standpoint, if he does right he has a chance to earn every cent. I am confident that he will.
"From my standpoint I would say he has a position and we have a position. It was very important for us to get the protection we did. … I think in the end it worked out fairly for both sides. I believe that."
BACK TO IT
Aaron Ross didn't need to be eased back in after all.
Ross, the Jaguars' cornerback who spent Friday through Monday flying to and from London to see his wife, Sanya Richards-Ross win gold in the 400 meter dash at the London Olympics, practiced full Tuesday upon his return to Jacksonville.
Ross said he returned to Jacksonville around 1 a.m. Tuesday. He originally had thought he might work back into practice slowly upon his return.
"As far as my body I felt pretty fresh out there to be honest with you, but I am sleepy," he said. "I didn't really get any sleep last night so I can't wait to take a little two-hour nap.
"I didn't want to miss any (reps). Like I said I have my legs, I'm just sleepy."
Richards-Ross won gold Sunday afternoon, and about an hour after the race, Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey had video of the race streamed on the Jumbotron inside EverBank Field for the team's players.
"She actually shed a tear right after," Ross said. "We were all at the house re-watching the race celebrating and then they sent us a text and told us that it was all over the news and sent us a little video clip of the guys watching the race. You see the guys getting excited, see the coaches getting excited – I mean, there's no better feeling than that."
Said Mularkey, "I saw a picture of her looking at us watching her. It was really neat the way everything unfolded. It fell into place. Everything did."
"It's really good to have (cornerback) Aaron (Ross) back. He had a great welcome from the team in the locker room. It was really neat to see the reception that he had and good to have him back in camp."
WHAT WE SAW
It's Day 10, and that means we're deep into training camp. There are enough players hurt at one position, offensive line, that we're getting a lot of rotation, and there have been the expected ups and downs early in camp. On Day 10, the defense had a few more penalties than you'd like, with five coming on one drive, but at the same time the improvement being made by quarterback Blaine Gabbert remains obvious. He has had a couple of rough days during camp and one of those days was Monday. He responded on Tuesday with one of his better days, and when he's throwing to starting wide receiver Laurent Robinson the growing confidence between the two is obvious. Wide receiver Cecil Shorts also had one of his better days Tuesday. Rashad Jennings had a long run in red-zone work, and rookie wide receiver Kevin Elliott had a huge block on linebacker Julian Stanford late in the morning practice.
Training camp continues with his normal schedule Wednesday, with a padded practice from 8:30-11 a.m. and a 4:45 afternoon walkthrough. Practices are closed to the public.
The news of the day Tuesday was the arrival of Blackmon, and because of that, much of the media focus was whether he can overcome missing the first 10 days of camp. Mularkey talked extensively about Blackmon's approach, and was straightforward about the rookie needing to focus on the details and nuances required of an elite-level NFL receiver. Perhaps most notable was Mularkey's view that Blackmon made dramatic strides in his approach late in the offseason. Mularkey said he had been concerned about Blackmon's approach before the rookie was arrested for DUI in early June, but that after that, his work ethic and attention to the playbook increased and that by the time the offseason ended he was optimistic about the rookie. For Mularkey to be as upfront about his feelings about Blackmon before the incident is significant because it gives credibility to his statement that he truly liked the approach afterward. That now becomes perhaps the critical storyline of camp moving forward – just what level of commitment Blackmon will bring. How he answers that may be the key to his NFL future.
*Three of the top five players on jaguars.com's recent list of the team's All-Time Top 25 players were at practice Monday. Former quarterback Mark Brunell, who is working with quarterbacks at Providence High School in Jacksonville, attended, as did former offensive tackle Tony Boselli – now the Team Teal Commissioner. Running back Fred Taylor is shadowing the Jaguars' scouting staff this week. The trio played together from 1998-2001.
*Mularkey on it taking wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan "about eight seconds" to get on Blackmon at practice Tuesday morning. "Eight? I would have expected much sooner than eight seconds."
*Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe worked in shorts Tuesday morning, as did center Brad Meester, tackle Guy Whimper and running back Richard Murphy. Guard Jason Spitz (foot) remained out, as did guard Will Rackley (ankle), linebacker Daryl Smith (groin), safety Jeremiah Brown (concussion) and defensive end Austen Lane (foot). Mularkey said Lane likely will be out three weeks.