|MJD accomplished nothing with his holdout. (Getty Images)|
Maurice Jones-Drew ended his 38-day holdout on Sunday, returning to the Jaguars. And when it was finally over, what did he accomplish? Nothing. Well, not "nothing" -- MJD did manage to alienate himself from a new coaching staff and he got an extended vacation. But that's about it.
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Whenever MJD speaks to the media, he'll probably figure out a way to spin his holdout in a positive fashion, and the word "principle" will get thrown around a lot. But the reality is that his holdout -- even if it was justified based on his age and financial situation and the cold reality of the NFL's business world -- still didn't accomplish anything.
His holdout, like that of so many players before him, was about money. And the financials of his absence are pretty clear, because MJD got zilch in return from the Jaguars for showing up. The only money that might change hands is the $1.2 million that the Jaguars can fine their star running back for missing more than a month of team activities.
I like Jones-Drew, both as a player and a person. He's done a lot for the city of Jacksonville and despite the constant barrage of sarcasm directed towards the city and its pro football team, he's stood by the Jags.
But by holding out and not actually getting anything in return, he's essentially setting the stage for playing out the final two years of his contract with no new financial incentives from the Jaguars, which means MJD might hit the open market (the Jags can still franchise tag him once his deal expires) at the age of 29. And while he'll get some money, he's not going to get another monster contract like he did when he was on the upswing of his career. In fact, Jones-Drew's original deal -- five years, $31 million -- actually looks like a pretty good standard-bearer for running back deals.
To get any new money, Jones-Drew will have to perform well in 2012. "Well" is a relative term too, because MJD's performance will be measured against his league-best 1,606 yards in 2011. He's unlikely to reach that number this year and when he doesn't, he'll look just like many other running backs before him (Chris Johnson, Larry Johnson come to mind) who didn't perform up to the previous year's statistical standards following a holdout.
If MJD doesn't meet last year's numbers, it won't be because he's out of shape. Jones-Drew is a tireless worker who's definitely keeping himself in tip-top form. But being in great shape is a whole different world from being in great "football shape" and that's a form of fitness that comes only from practice and team workouts, which Jones-Drew has none of.
It'll probably take him some time to get there, and whenever he does, the awkwardness of re-joining the team will have subsided. There'll be the issue of fines, which may or may not be taken out of his paycheck. There will be the booing from the fans, which is almost a certainty because of his absence. There will be fantasy backlash, from owners who invested a high pick in Jones-Drew.
And there'll be the weird decision Mike Mularkey -- who, again, MJD hadn't met in person prior to ending his holdout -- faces in Week 1 when he decides whether or not to start Jones-Drew. Mularkey said Rashad Jennings would start in Week 1, and if Mularkey keeps his word, it'll be a weird sight watching the All-Pro sitting on the sideline.
Maybe it'll be enough to motivate MJD and maybe he'll end up having a big season after all. But it won't matter even if he runs for 2,000 yards, because he still won't have gotten what he wanted: more money.
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