At first I didn't think much of Maurice Jones-Drew staying away from the Jaguars' OTAs. Everything I read suggested that Jones-Drew always trained on his own and came into mandatory mini-camp looking like a perfect human specimen. In fact, MJD might have been the best conditioned player coming into the lockout-defined 2011 season. Unfortunately for Jones-Drew and the Jaguars faithful, it looks like the contract situation is going to be a bigger issue than previously anticipated. According to an NFL.com report, MJD just didn't look like the kind of runner they wanted to put a lot of money into.
Now this is really no surprise given the current state of the league. Most organizations consider the running back position a luxury, and Jones-Drew is locked into a contract that carries him through the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Given the kind of physical beating he has taken over the last six seasons, amassing nearly 1,500 carries including 343 last season, the Jaguars believe that Jones-Drew has lost a step. That is really no shock. I wondered the same thing about his short term productivity in a number of articles, but that was without reading anything that suggested evidence of MJD losing speed.
Given this new development, Jones-Drew should be anchored securely below Chris Johnson, with Ryan Matthews coming on fast. If we hear more about these issues once training camp arrives, or if Pocket Hercules fails to show up to training camp, then he might take an even bigger hit. This whole situation is a bit disappointing; I hate to see a player as dedicated to his physical well-being as Maurice is treated this way by the press and his organization, but this is a business and the Jaguars are in no position to make lofty promises they cannot keep. If MJD is not in their long term plans, then there is no way they can give him a big contract. I still think he is a strong first round pick, but you have to be wary of any 'back who carries the rock more than 330 times in a single season.