Jones-Drew back with JagsMaurice Jones-Drew remains as passionate as ever about his value. So when the Jacksonville Jaguars running back ended his 38-day holdout Sunday — without a new contract — he had no apologies, no regrets and no concerns about his standing with the franchise.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Maurice Jones-Drew remains as passionate as ever about his value.
So when the Jacksonville Jaguars running back ended his 38-day holdout Sunday — without a new contract — he had no apologies, no regrets and no concerns about his standing with the franchise.
“I’m in a good place,” he said. “I did something I felt was right, and I’m always going to feel right. I’m not going to feel wrong for what I did at all. And that’s why I can come back and not have a negative attitude. I think if you regret things, you’re going to come back salty, be a distraction, things like that.
“I don’t feel that way ‘cause what I did was right. No one can tell me it was wrong. Not one person here can tell me what I did was wrong.”
Jones-Drew arrived at the team facility Sunday morning, chatted with teammates and then had a 40-minute conversation with coach Mike Mularkey.
“This is the last talk about the whole contract situation,” he said. “We’re going to move forward to football after this.”
Jones-Drew considered skipping games, missing paychecks and causing an even bigger distraction for the team. Ultimately, though, he opted to report a week before the season opener. Jacksonville plays at Minnesota Sunday.
Jones-Drew, 27, 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.
“My production spoke for itself,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s how it played out. I read some articles that said there’s no way you can outperform a contract. That’s a lie.”
Fill-in refs raising concerns as NFL season looms
With no agreement with its locked-out referee union in sight, the NFL is planning to use replacement referees for at least the first week of the season. The new crews have seemed to work hard, but a seamless adjustment is impossible in such a short time. Many of the replacements are going from supervising small college games to policing the sport’s best athletes in front of 75,000-strong crowds.
“Officiating is an imperfect science,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “They’re not going to be correct all the time, but we have systems in place to try to help.”
“The replacement officials continue to improve every week as we continue to work intensively on their training. Overall, they are doing a good job,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said.
In 2011 with the regular officials, an average of 13 penalties for 109 yards was issued per preseason game. That number entering the finales Thursday was up only slightly for 2012, an average of 13.4 penalties for 117.7 yards per exhibition game, according to research by STATS LLC.
Teams are under orders not to criticize the officiating. Thus, much of the August analysis has been couched in diplomacy.
“They’re trying their hearts out,” Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said.
Said St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher: “Even in games where you have your regular officials there are going to be penalties that are missed, OK?”
Quipped Chicago coach Lovie Smith: “We complain. It doesn’t matter who’s over there.”
Players have been more outspoken. Bears kicker Robbie Gould called the replacement refs “clueless” on Twitter and rhetorically asked the NFL when it stopped “caring about the integrity of the game.”
Minnesota quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted about “watching lowlights” from the “overmatched” officials in preseason games and predicted a “PR mess” for the league if the regulars aren’t returned.
“We’re fortunate because we can look at the big screen and see the replays, but it’s tough for them,” Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea said.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe pointed to the fine line between success and failure in this ultra-competitive league.
“Look at last year: The Giants, the eventual Super Bowl champions, they were one game out from not making the playoffs,” Kluwe said. “So if you get one bad call that takes a game the complete other way, the entire season’s different.”
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association, which covers more than 120 on-field officials, are at odds over salary, retirement benefits and operational issues. The NFL has said its offer includes annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than $200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it would ultimately reduce their compensation.
Part of the league’s plan is also to begin hiring some full-time officials. Currently, they’re all part-timers who have other jobs during the week.
The two sides met Saturday but came away with no agreement and no announced date to meet again.
On Sunday, the league sent teams a memo saying it upped its offer to the union and thought it was close to a deal, but the union said “there was no agreement ... to do anything other than to meet on Saturday. Any claim that numbers were agreed to before Saturday is absolutely false.”
In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, the NFL said that on Saturday “the officials immediately did an about-face and made clear that they had no intention of settling within the agreed-upon parameters.”
So Week 1 in 2012 probably will be like Week 1 in 2001. That year, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.
NFL policy generally prohibits officials from speaking to the media, and the replacements are no exception. Little is known about what they’ve seen, heard and felt over the past month. But those who have lived it before have a good idea.
Tom Perrault, the supervisor of officials for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, an NCAA Division III league, spent 40 years on the field refereeing games at all college levels including the Big Ten. As he worked his way up, he found the differences from division to division difficult to adjust to.
“Every transition for me was a big challenge. It took me three to five years before I really felt comfortable working with the speed and the size of those players,” Perrault said.
Plus, there’s the scrutiny that comes with the NFL game.
“Just the atmosphere and the intensity and the electricity of those stadiums, they’ve never experienced that before on that field while trying to concentrate and having the best athletes in the world playing football,” Perrault said.
AP Football Writers Rob Maaddi, Arnie Stapleton and Barry Wilner, AP Sports Writers Tom Canavan, R.B. Fallstrom, Jon Krawczynski, Larry Lage, Michael Marot, and AP freelance writer Gene Chamberlain contributed to this report.
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