For a while last year, Maurice Jones-Drew was thinking about walking away from football because he couldn’t run anymore.
A broken bone in his left foot cut his season short with the Jaguars in 2012, and in 2013 he was back on the field but wasn’t the same terrific back he’d been in 2011 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,606 yards.
In 2013 he played 15 games and carried the ball 234 times, but gained just 803 yards and saw his yards-per-carry average drop from 4.8 before his 2012 injury to 3.4.
At age 29, Jones-Drew – a mainstay for the Jaguars since his selection in the 2006 draft – was wondering if his career was over.
“For a while, I was contemplating retirement because I just didn’t feel like I had it anymore,” he told the Los Angeles Times recently. “But that wasn’t the case. My trainer helped me get back in shape and gain that foundation that I’d lost with the (foot) surgery.”
After his foot injury in 2012, doctors inserted two screws into his left foot to hold it together, and in 2013 Jones-Drew never felt right.
But after signing with the Raiders this offseason, Jones-Drew says he finally feels like he’s regained his strength in the foot and is ready to show his new team that he’s the same player he used to be.
And if that’s the case, the Raiders will go into 2014 with a player who was known for being one of the NFL’s most dynamic backs – a 5-foot-7, 210-pound dynamo who’s can run the ball, catch it and block.
In his eight-year pro career, Jones-Drew – who played at Concord De La Salle before going to UCLA and the NFL – has 8,071 yards on the ground and a 4.5-yard average, plus 335 receptions for another 2,873 yards.
If Jones-Drew is fit again and Darren McFadden can stay away from injuries, the Oakland offense – behind a revamped line – could be significantly better.
Of course, those are two big ifs. But Jones-Drew, after an intense workout program this offseason, is determined to show he’s returned to the top of his game.
“It doesn’t bother me that people have written me off, but it’s just how they’ve done it,” Jones-Drew told Sam Farmer of the Times. “I understand if I had played bad the year before, then played the way I did (in 2013). Then I could understand people saying, ‘Oh, he’s done.’ But I was leading the league in rushing before I broke my foot. It was tough hearing people say, ‘Aw, you don’t have in anymore.’ ”
In fact, just three weeks before Jones-Drew suffered his injury in a game against the Raiders in October of 2012, he had rushed for 177 yards on 28 carries – including a 59-yard TD run – vs. the Colts.
Now he’s telling everyone in Oakland to watch out. The old Maurice Jones-Drew is back.
“I’m in the best shape of my life now, running fast, running hills, pulling sleds, cutting, jumping,” he said. “I’ve rededicated myself to my craft again.”
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, who’s watched Jones-Drew and McFadden in OTAs and minicamp, is excited by what he sees.
“When you watch them practice, you see guys that sill have explosion, guys that still have run skills, guys that still make people miss,” he told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group in June. “I don’t pay a lot of attention to what the statistics may say. I just see what I see with my eyes, and I see a couple of guys that if they can stay healthy, have the ability to perform at a high level.”