Maurice Jones-Drew won't play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons, but Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio painted a positive picture about a mysterious knee injury that has been the subject of wild news reports.
"Working, rehabbing, strengthening and gearing up for the start of the regular season," Del Rio said when asked what Jones-Drew was doing this week. "We're going to hold him out of the short week."
The NFL does not require its teams to provide injury information on its players during the preseason and the Jaguars had offered none on Jones-Drew until Del Rio's press conference on Monday. Even at that, there was no mention of the specific injury, which is rumored to be to his knee.
Has he had surgery, as a website reported last week?
"No," Del Rio said. "That has not happened and is not necessary."
Jones-Drew has carried the ball only six times for minus-two yards in the preseason, but Del Rio's tone of voice suggested his star running back will be ready to play in the season-opener against Denver on Sept. 12.
"He is clearly one of our marquee players. Arriving at the regular season full strength is what's most important," Del Rio said.
Del Rio was in a cheerful mood on Monday and it was likely the result of having watched what he referred to as "some good tape" from the Jaguars' 19-13 win in Tampa on Saturday.
"We hit the quarterback about 15 times in that game. We got downhill, for the most part, with our linebackers. We tackled better," he said of his defense, which held the Bucs to 191 yards of offense.
Offensively, the Jaguars gained 396 yards but struggled in the red zone.
"The game ended up being a little closer than it should have," Del Rio said. "We had a couple of penalties that hindered our effort offensively. Those are things we'll clean up."
An interception by the Bucs late in the first half killed a drive that had moved to the Bucs one-yard line. The interception of David Garrard's pass for fullback Greg Jones was returned 80 yards and directly led to the Bucs' only touchdown of the night.
"There are a lot of good things going on right now. We got our offensive line back; no sacks," Del Rio added, referring mainly to the return of right tackle Eben Britton.
Two starting jobs, one at guard and the other at free safety, may have been decided on Saturday, but Del Rio said he wasn't ready to announce the winners. "We understand the direction we're going," he added.
Did Vince Manuwai regain his starting job at guard, which he has held since his rookie season in 2003 but had lost to Kynan Forney for the first two games of the preseason? Forney was unable to play on Saturday due to a sore back and Manuwai stepped back into the lineup.
"I don't know. I just try to see what kind of role I'll have; just come to work and do what you're told," Manuwai said. "When you get older, you understand more that it's a business. You know that one day it's going to happen," he added of the prospect of being cut, "but you keep fighting."
The Jaguars will cut their roster to 75 by Tuesday and to 53 by Saturday. How does a player make the roster?
"Have you created a role for yourself; something you can do on Sunday to help the team? That the surest way to make the roster," Del Rio said
With an eye toward those final cuts, Del Rio added: "We feel we're a better football team than the one that played last year."