JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 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 it 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.
Later, he spent nearly half an hour answering questions about his holdout, even getting to a point where he told reporters to "make sure we all get this out of the way because I'm done after this."
"This is the last talk about the whole contract situation," he said. "We're going to more 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 next Sunday.
"It really wasn't about budging," said Jones-Drew, who took a conditioning test later in the day. "For me, it got to the point where I wasn't going to be traded. Obviously, they weren't going to pay me. I could have easily sat out until Week 10, come back and been a distraction. It wasn't about that. I'm not going to come back and distract guys from playing the game the right way."
The NFL's leading rusher in 2011, Jones-Drew skipped the team's entire offseason schedule in what became a nasty contract dispute.
Mularkey can fine MJD up to $30,000 a day — plus $60,000 for a three-day, mandatory minicamp in June — meaning the total tab could end up being $1.2 million. Jones-Drew declined to reveal what he and Mularkey discussed regarding the potential fine.
Jones-Drew is scheduled to make $4.45 million in 2012 and $4.95 million next year.
He wanted to renegotiate the final two years of a five-year, $31 million deal that paid him nearly $22 million the last three seasons. Owner Shad Khan and general manager Gene Smith refused, not wanting to set a precedent of paying players in the middle of lucrative deals.
Things got tense after Khan said publicly that Jones-Drew's absence "doesn't even move the needle." Khan also said his message to Jones-Drew is the "train's leaving the station. Run, get on it."
Those comments didn't sit well with Jones-Drew, who would have accepted a trade if it meant getting a new deal.
"I was disappointed about the comments," Jones-Drew said. "I expect you guys or people outside the organization to make those comments like that. But when you do get it inside the organization, with how hard we work, with the time you put in through the offseason, the time you spend away from your family here at the facility, you expect a little more appreciation."
Khan welcomed Jones-Drew aboard Sunday.
"The Jaguars are a better football team today than we were yesterday, and now our entire franchise can move forward together and as one," Khan said in a statement. "Nothing more needs to be said. "
Coming off a career year, Jones-Drew wanted to be one of the NFL's highest-paid backs. His average salary per year ranks behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, Houston's Arian Foster, St. Louis' Steven Jackson, Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch.
The 27-year-old Jones-Drew 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. Not only has he seemingly outperformed his contract, Jones-Drew is the face of the franchise and probably the only player on the roster known outside small-market Jacksonville.
"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."
The Jaguars, though, felt like they paid him based on the expectation that he would flourish as a starter after spending the first three years of his career splitting carries with Fred Taylor. The team doesn't want to pay a running back into his 30s, especially one who takes as many pounding hits as Jones-Drew does. Plus, the Jaguars have missed the playoffs in each of his three seasons as the starter.
"I knew it was going to be a difficult situation," Jones-Drew said. "I had two years left. But the way I was raised, the way I grew up, is if you believe something you fight for it. You fight for whatever you believe. My production stated something. I fought for it, plain and simple.
"Yes, it went into a holdout and all these different things. At the end of the day, that's what it was about: my production and my value. I haven't stopped fighting. I'm going to come out and play."
But will playing get Jones-Drew a new contract? Or will MJD and the Jaguars be in a similar position next year?
"We're over it," he said. "It's solved for the time being and we're ready to move on."