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Ready either way


Maurice Jones-Drew can see it from both sides.

But while there may be good and bad for a veteran of six NFL seasons not playing in the preseason, the Jaguars' two-time Pro Bowl running back said there's no question which he would prefer.

Jones-Drew, who has missed the first two preseason games while returning from a knee injury that kept him out the final two games last regular season, said although he doesn't have to play to be ready for the regular season, he would feel a bit better if he did.

"I guess there are positives and negatives to not playing," Jones-Drew said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-1 in the preseason) prepared to play the Buffalo Bills (0-2) in a preseason game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday at 7 p.m.

"For me, obviously coming off the injury I want to be able to go out there and get in a live situation and see what I can do and see how it feels."

Jones-Drew added, "I'm ready either way. I think it's the coach's decision along with everyone else and just when I get my number called I'll be ready to play."

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said Tuesday neither Jones-Drew nor defensive end Aaron Kampman, each of whom missed the end of last season with knee injuries, will play against the Bills. Del Rio said the pair each likely will play in the preseason finale September 1 against St. Louis.

While the duo could play Saturday, Del Rio said the approach is about striking a balance between having them ready for the regular season and reducing their exposure to injury. Del Rio said it's easier to control their environment in a preseason home finale than to have them play Saturday.

Jones-Drew and Kampman each have practiced this week and last week, and Jones-Drew said during those sessions he has been able to cut, accelerate and move in what for him is a normal level.

"It feels great," Jones-Drew said. "For me, going through a full practice, getting that conditioning – we did conditioning before practice – that's really all you want. There's no fatigue factor.

"I can't wait to go out there in live period, see what it's like, take a couple of hits and get tackled, hopefully, and get ready for Week 1. . . . Everybody in this league has played through something, so I just have to go out and play."

Jones-Drew, who talked optimistically about his readiness before training camp and midway through, said he is more optimistic now.

"I'm more excited about it, because after a full practice, there's no soreness – there's nothing," he said. "I've got the burst back and the same burst I have at the beginning of practice, I have at the end. That's all that matters. That's all I know."

Jones-Drew, after a Pro Bowl season in his first season as a starter in 2009, missed two preseason games last season while dealing with the knee injury that would eventually bother him enough to keep him out of the final two regular season games. Overall last preseason, Jones-Drew carried six times for minus-2 yards.

Still, Jones-Drew last season started the first 14 games, rushing for 1,324 yards and five touchdowns on 299 carries. He had seven 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high six consecutive 100-yard rushing games from late October through early December.

Jones-Drew said he used some of the time made available by the off-season lockout to examine the performance of past running backs, such as New York Jet and former San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomplinson, who have at times missed all or parts of preseasons.

"He started off a little slower, but when he caught on fire, he caught on fire," Jones-Drew said.

Jones-Drew is just one of several Jaguars running backs limited by injury during the preseason. Backup Rashad Jennings missed last week's victory over Atlanta with a head injury, and third-team running back Deji Karim is out this week with a head injury.

The Jaguars' offense has dealt with other injuries during the preseason, too, with right tackle Eben Britton expected to be out until the regular-season opener with a back injury, and starting quarterback David Garrard sat out the preseason opener with a back injury.

Partly as a result of the shifting lineup, the Jaguars' offense has been more inconsistent during the preseason than would be ideal, but Jones-Drew said the reality is preseason is less a time for judging consistency and more a time for preparation and practice.

"It's preseason," he said. "We're just working on things. Obviously a lot of people want us to look sharper and crisp and want us to do certain things, but we're working on different things. I mean we're not going out there running a route exactly like we would in the regular season, we're trying new things.

"We're trying to play a game within the game just to test some things out. Right now, what you want to do is go into a game with your five best moves, your five best things to get you into the best position to be successful and make plays and then you run with it. Right now those guys are trying different things, the offensive line is trying different techniques, the running backs are trying different moves in the hole, the receivers are trying different techniques to get off the ball and running different routes.

"It's not going to look pretty, but when you're working on different things and trying to prepare yourself . . . obviously we had a shortened offseason so we're trying to do what we'd do in OTAs now and then be able to translate that to Week One."

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