There have been many doubters out there with regards to Maurice Jones-Drew – I was not among them.
This past weekend, Maurice Jones-Drew returned to the Jaguars locker room and is no longer holding out for a contract extension. We first heard this from ESPN’s Adam Schefter but I think the confirmation that made me feel properly comfortable about the situation was when this tweet was sent out by MJD’s teammate and backup Rashad Jennings:
Considering it is Jennings who will take Jones-Drew’s spot for at least week 1 regardless of his status according to Jacksonville head coach Mike Mularkey this warming statement is a very good sign.
Now that Maurice Jones-Drew is back with his team, there are still questions that need to be answered. For example – is he going to continue to push for a new contract? The contract he is currently on will pay him only $9.5 million over the next two years and with the extensions that some of the league’s other top runners have received this is not going to just go away now that MJD is back and ready to play. While I don’t believe it will cause trouble in-season, there is a chance that if the media keep pushing him about it – as they did in the fantasy teleconference with him I attended a couple of weeks ago – then this could provide an unneeded distraction.
Then there is the possibility of injury. If you will recall this time last year, there were multiple question about Jones-Drew’s health and in particular the knee issues he had in 2010. Maurice’s response – an NFL leading 347 carries in 2011. Now we know that MJD is big on conditioning and the reports about his off-season program have been good. We also can likely assume from the information out of the Jaguars camp at the end of last season that Jones-Drew didn’t have injuries of any seriousness.
What we don’t know about MJD’s physical condition is the effect that 347 carries has had on his body or if they will cause him to be injured this year plus there is the fact that he has not been in contact with the Jacksonville medical staff while working out during the off-season so there hasn’t been the usual monitoring that takes place. I am not saying we should assume he is vulnerable to injury – we learned last year the folly of that – but there is enough to at least be concerned.
If Maurice Jones-Drew’s numbers go down this year, there have been warning signs. I wouldn’t bet on it though – now that he’s back, it should be business as usual in Jacksonville.