JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has ended his 38-day holdout – without a new contract.
Jones-Drew arrived at the facility Sunday morning and chatted with teammates before meeting with coaches.
ESPN first reported Jones-Drew’s decision.
”Just shared some love with (at)Jones-Drew32 in the locker room,” Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings posted on his Twitter page. ”Glad to see you back – Let’s work brah!”
The NFL’s leading rusher in 2011, Jones-Drew skipped the team’s entire offseason in a nasty contract dispute. With coach Mike Mularkey able to fine him up to $30,000 a day – plus $60,000 for a three-day, mandatory minicamp – Jones-Drew could be out $1.2 million this season. He is scheduled to make $4.45 million in 2012 and $4.95 million next year.
Jones-Drew wanted to renegotiate the final two years of a five-year, $31 million deal that paid him nearly $22 million the last three seasons. Owner Shad Khan and general manager Gene Smith refused, not wanting to set a precedent of paying players in the middle of lucrative deals.
Things got somewhat tense after Khan said publicly that Jones-Drew’s absence ”doesn’t even move the needle.” Khan also said his message to Jones-Drew is that the ”train’s leaving the station. Run, get on it.”
Those comments apparently didn’t sit well with Jones-Drew.
”Maurice wants to play for an organization that wants him and for an owner who respects him and values what he brings to a team – on the field, in the locker room and in the community,” said his agent, Adisa Bakari.
Coming off a career year, Jones-Drew wants to be one of the NFL’s highest-paid backs. His average salary per year ranks behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, Houston’s Arian Foster, St. Louis’ Steven Jackson, Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.
The 27-year-old Jones-Drew signed his deal in 2009, before rushing for at least 1,300 yards in three consecutive seasons. He had a league-best 1,606 yards on the ground in 2011. Not only has he seemingly outperformed his contract, Jones-Drew is the face of the franchise and probably the only player on the roster known outside small-market Jacksonville.
The Jaguars, though, feel like they paid him based on the expectation that he would flourish as a starter after spending the first three years of his career splitting carries with Fred Taylor. The team isn’t enamored with paying a running back into his 30s, especially one who takes as many pounding hits as Jones-Drew does. Plus, the Jaguars have missed the playoffs in each of his three seasons as the starter.
Jones-Drew is entering his seventh season. He has 6,854 yards rushing, 2,473 yards receiving and 74 total touchdowns. He carried a career-high 343 times last season, averaging 4.7 yards even though defenses knew he was the focal point of Jacksonville’s offense.