|Maurice Jones-Drew will be eased into the Jaguars offense until he can start again. (US Presswire)|
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maurice Jones-Drew will begin the season much like he did his NFL career: a backup and third-down running back.
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said Monday that Jones-Drew will rotate in on third-down plays Sunday at Minnesota. The NFL's leading rusher in 2011 also will "get a series" in place of starter Rashad Jennings, Mularkey added.
"I don't know the number of reps that he will play, but I would imagine that he will play, yes," Mularkey said.
Jones-Drew ended a 38-day holdout Sunday without a new contract. He asked the team to rework the final two years of his five-year, $31 million contract, but the Jaguars declined.
|More on Jones-Drew holdout|
Jones-Drew was unapologetic in regards to his absence and has no regrets about how he handled things. He spent about 12 hours at the facility Sunday, meeting with coaches, taking a conditioning test and studying the playbook.
He practiced with the team Monday for the first time since before last year's finale. Jones-Drew said he carried about 10 or 15 times, getting repetitions in 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
"It felt great," he said. "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."
Getting the playbook down should be the key to increasing his workload as the season progresses.
"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."
Mularkey said Jones-Drew appears to be in playing shape, but expects to have a better gauge after Wednesday's fully padded practice.
"If you look at him physically, yes, I'd say he looks game ready," Mularkey said. "I have to see more than just an hour and a half practice."
Jones-Drew spent part of the offseason working out in South Florida with former teammate Fred Taylor. A second-round draft pick in 2006, Jones-Drew started his NFL career as Taylor's backup. He worked mostly as the team's short-yardage, goal-line and third-down back -- so his current role is nothing new.
"Yeah, I'm going to do the best I can and be ready," he said. "[Playing time is] up to the coaches. If they feel I'm ready, I'll play. And if not, that's their choice."
The always-confident Jones-Drew, who carried a career-high 343 times last season, believes he's ready to take on his usual workload -- maybe even more.
"That's not my call," he said. "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."