Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew breaks through the line against… (Joe Robbins / Getty Images )
The news keeps getting better for Jacksonville Jaguars fans, not to mention fantasy football owners: Maurice Jones-Drew probably will play in the season opener as a third-down back and might play an entire series, according to Coach Mike Mularkey.
The dual-threat running back, the reigning NFL rushing champion, reported to camp Sunday after a 38-day holdout as he demanded a new contract, even though he had two years left and $9 million owed on his current deal.
But after Jones-Drew came to camp, met with coaches and held a news conference in which he said his failed holdout would not be a distraction, the former UCLA star appears ready to take the field.
"I don't know the number of reps that he will play, but I would imagine that he will play," Mularkey said. "If you look at him physically, yes, I'd say he looks game ready. I have to see more than just an hour-and-a-half practice."
Jones-Drew, who rushed for 1,606 yards last season with an NFL-leading 343 carries, practiced with the team Monday. He said he worked out with former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, whom he backed up as a rookie primarily in passing and third-down situations, in Florida during his holdout.
"It felt great," Jones-Drew said of practice Monday. "Obviously studying the playbook, kind of getting into the intricate details of things, the snap count. It felt great to get out there and run around with the guys and get hit a little bit. It's kind of good to get my legs back underneath me and getting ready to roll."
Every practice is critical for Jones-Drew since the Jaguars have opted to run a new offense this season.
"Everything I'm doing I'm just trying to get acclimated with how they're blocking and the blocking scheme, my reads, reaction times, things like that that I couldn't work on being away," he said. "That's coming along fine."
As for the season opener Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, the 5-foot-7, 210-pound running back is willing to accept his fate.
“That's not my call," he said of playing time. “I've already told you if I can carry the ball 80 times in a game, I would carry it 80 times in the game. We know that."
As far as playing time, he said that's "up to the coaches. If they feel I'm ready, I'll play. And if not, that's their choice.”
Wire service and Internet reports contributed to this story.
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