JACKSONVILLE – Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't know the specifics of his return.
What he does know is he likes a lot of what he hears from new Head Coach Gus Bradley, and he knows he wants to be ready for Jaguars training camp in late July.
The Jaguars' three-time Pro Bowl running back knows, too, that the new faces – and more particularly, the absence of old ones – around the locker room this week are part of life in the NFL. So, while Jones-Drew doesn't love the idea of former teammates departing en masse, he understands this:
In the NFL, that's just the way it is.
"It's part of the business," Jones-Drew said Tuesday.
Jones-Drew, a Pro Bowl selection from 2009-2011 and the NFL's leading rusher in 2011, was among the 56 players who reported for the first day of the team's voluntary offseason program Tuesday. The only player not attending was left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is participating in the NFL's Business Management program at Stanford University.
Jones-Drew said it was the first time in eight NFL seasons he has been in Jacksonville at this point in the offseason. He usually opts to work out on his own elsewhere, and last season, he held out until August before reporting.
This offseason has had different feel for Jones-Drew, and new Head Coach Gus Bradley reiterated on Tuesday what he said at the NFL Owners meetings – that he is pleased with Jones-Drew's mindset as the offseason program begins.
"He was one of the early guys in (on Tuesday)," Bradley said. "He came in and sat in my office earlier this morning (Tuesday). It was outstanding. He's done things that we've asked of him. He's done everything."
Jones-Drew, who underwent surgery on a foot injury late last season, spent the first three months of the offseason taking three classes at UCLA. He was unable to run or work out during that time, and only last week got out of the protective boot. He is one of five players along with fullback Montell Owens, tight end Matt Veldman, guard Uche Nwaneri and running back Jordan Todman not expected to participate in the team's veteran mini-camp April 16-18.
"I have a little ways to go, but it's just part of the process," he said. "It's just something I have to deal with, and just be ready for training camp."
When training camp begins, Jones-Drew for the first time in his career will be there without Greg Jones, who signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent last week after nine seasons with the Jaguars. Jones is among the many veterans released or signed elsewhere since the hiring of Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell.
The Jaguars currently have 58 players on the roster, which has created a locker room empty enough that six lockers to either side of Jones-Drew stood empty Tuesday.
Jones-Drew joked that he was hoping Jones' locker remained empty in case he wanted to return, but also said that the player departures – particularly in a time of transition – is to be expected.
"There will be a time when this locker will be empty, so it is what it is," Jones-Drew said. "There's going to be changes, if you don't win there's going to be changes regardless. . . . Like I said, a lot of people think it's just fun and games around here. We have a job to do, and if you don't do it, they're going to find someone else to do it. It's just the reality of the NFL."
Asked if he was avoiding the term, rebuilding, Jones-Drew said, "No, that's what it is."
"You can't avoid it," he said. "There are a lot of teams that have rebuilt. The Colts last year, they were rebuilding and they went to the playoffs. Just because you're rebuilding doesn't mean you're not going to win. You have to have the right guys in the right scheme and be able to be consistent and make plays."
Also around the Jaguars:
*Bradley said that while the Jaguars have 58 players under contract, the team will be allowed to bring in players on a workout basis for the team's veteran orientation camp April 16-18. "It's a chance to bring in competition and take a look at guys," Bradley said. "Through that if we can find two guys or three guys it's like a couple draft picks. I'm always competing trying to find another guy that we think can provide competition for the guys that we already have in house. I think it's a tremendous advantage for us having that." Bradley said players might be brought in at the thinner positions, and while that could include quarterback he said, "I am not concerned about that." Bradley noted that during the Seahawks' rookie minicamp last offseason then-rookie Russell Wilson was the lone quarterback in camp. "He took every rep." Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are the only quarterbacks on the Jaguars' current roster.
*Jones-Drew on Tuesday also addressed the so-called "crown-of-the-helmet" rule, under which backs and linebackers cannot initiate impact with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box. "There are guys making decisions that have never played the position before," he said. "We have to protect ourselves and if you get in the way of getting protected, hey you're a defender. I think it's a bad, bad idea, but it's not going to change the way I play. . . . I just hope DBs understand that it is a rule and I might not hit you with the top of my head, but you're going to get, as Matt Forte labeled it, somebody's going to get the boom lowered on them. It is what it is."
*Defensive end Jeremy Mincey on the massive roster changes since the hiring of Caldwell and Bradley: "You've got to destroy to rebuild sometimes."