On Sunday morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew will return to his team after a 38-day holdout. The report was confirmed by NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, and seriously confirmed by Jags running back Rashad Jennings.
Jones-Drew, who led the NFL in rushing in 2011 with 1,606 yards, has held out through the entire preseason because he wants a re-structured contract. In a recent conference call with local reporters, Jags head coach Mike Mularkey said that he was hearing "rumors" that MJD might return sooner than later — and in time for the Jags' regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday.
"I have not heard from Maurice,'' Mularkey said in a recent conference call with local reporters. "I've heard those same things just like you have, but nothing from the people that need to tell its firm.''
But how, Mularkey was asked, does a head coach get those rumors when he spends so much time at the team facility?
"I get out," he said. "Today, I'm actually off to catch up with my wife to see what is going on in her life. I've heard things out on the street just like you guys do. It wasn't on Twitter.''
When the Jaguars cut their roster to the final 53 on Saturday, they placed Jones-Drew on the Reserve/Did Not Report list, so they would receive a roster exemption when the running back returned to the team. Jones-Drew would thus be available to start Week 1, but Mularkey has said that Jennings would most likely be the main man until Jones-Drew was sure to be in game shape. Jennings rushed for 209 yards on 47 carries in the preseason, finishing second to Arizona's William Powell in preseason rushing yards.
"That's hasn't come up, that discussion. We've got to get him in first. He's got to come in. We'll go from there. That has not been addressed yet,'' Mularkey said.
Jones-Drew, who signed a five-year, $31 million contract in 2009, has collected $21.8 million in the first three seasons, but wants to be paid in line with other elite backs. That would include the contacts recently given to Adrian Peterson (seven years, $100 million, $30 million guaranteed), Chris Johnson (four years, $53.5 million, $30 million guaranteed), LeSean McCoy (five years, $45.6 million, $20.8 million guaranteed), Arian Foster (five years, $43.5 million, $20.8 million guaranteed), and Matt Forte (four years, $32 million, $18 million guaranteed).
Jones-Drew could be fined up to $1.2 million by the team for off-season time should the Jaguars choose that option, but it's more likely that both sides will forgive and forget. Jones-Drew is returning now because if he doesn't, he starts losing game checks. And with a $4.45 million base salary in 2012, every week of in-season absence would have cost Jones-Drew $261,765.
In the end, the Jags are unlikely to move on Jones-Drew's requests. "There's no decision here,'' Jags owner Shad Khan told the Florida Times-Union in July. "It's his choice. There's been very little for us to do rather than wait on whatever he might choose to do ... There's more than 50 players [on the team] under contract. There are other people under contract in management, coaches. Does that mean if you do it for one, you do it for everybody.
"Where do you draw the line?''
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