Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is making progress toward getting back on the field and getting his college degree.
Jones-Drew started running for the first time in nearly two months Wednesday, but remains a long shot to play Sunday when the Jaguars (2-12) host New England (10-4).
Jones-Drew has missed the last eight games because of a sprained left foot. Coach Mike Mularkey called his star running back "questionable," an upgrade from his "highly questionable" status of recent weeks.
"I just don't want to go out there and put anybody else in jeopardy if I can't be full speed," Jones-Drew said. "If I can't go out there and fully protect our quarterback, help our offensive line and block, I'm not going to go out there and put somebody else's life in jeopardy."
With two games remaining, the Jaguars have little left to play for in what will go down as the worst season in franchise history.
And Jones-Drew has nothing to prove. He led the NFL in rushing last season, has another year remaining on a lucrative contract and remains the centerpiece of the franchise.
But standing on the sideline has been difficult for the ultra-competitive back who has been telling teammates for weeks that "losers tend to quit when things get tough."
"For me, it's just more to show my teammates and the league that people get hurt and you just have to be able to bounce back," he said. "Watching these guys for a long time and coaching, you got to be able to preach what you coach. I've been doing a lot of talking. I haven't been able to go out there and do it yet, so hopefully I can get out there and be able to show some of the guys what I've been talking about."
Jones-Drew is going back to school for similar reasons.
When he left UCLA after his junior season in 2006, Jones-Drew promised his mother and his grandparents that he would return to school and get his degree.
Football, family, cross-country travel and plenty of other excuses make college an afterthought.
But with the Jaguars long removed from playoff contention and his youngest child now 19 months old, Jones-Drew is going back to college. He's taking three business classes beginning Jan. 7.
"Some of these schools, they'll take a check for that degree," he said. "I am not going to say who, not going to say what schools, but at UCLA, you got to go back. You can't take online classes. You have to go back and actually go in the classroom. That made it tough."
And get this: Jones-Drew wants to live in a dorm.
"I don't think I'll be a college kid again," he said. "College kids don't make what I make, and I don't party like that, don't do those things. I just go to school and catch up on a lot of sleep. I have to get here at 6:30 every morning and I've got three kids at home, man. I don't get a lot of sleep with those guys."
Maybe the best news for coach Mike Mularkey and the Jaguars is that Jones-Drew is just going to college for a quarter and doesn't plan on missing anything mandatory in the offseason.
"I probably won't train" in Jacksonville, Jones-Drew said. "I'm going to train the way I've trained for the last seven years."
Jones-Drew skipped the entire offseason program in 2012, sitting out training camp and the preseason during a 38-day holdout while looking for a new contract. The Jaguars didn't budge, refusing to renegotiate since he had two years remaining on a five-year deal worth $31.5 million. He made $4.45 million this season and due to get $4.95 million next year.
He said Wednesday he doesn't plan on another holdout.
"We'll see how it goes," he said. "Things could change, though."
His status for the Patriots could change, too, depending on how his foot responds to Wednesday's workout.
"I will be very surprised if he can go out there and run like we want him to run today," Mularkey said. "I will be very surprised. ... I'm happy he's going to be out there running, making an effort to push that thing and see how it's going to feel."
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