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Jones-Drew runs with Jaguars for first time in nine months

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The Canadian Press
7/26/2013 6:06:52 PM
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maurice Jones-Drew's first carry in more than nine months barely got beyond the line of scrimmage.

It was a huge gain for the Jacksonville Jaguars, though.

Jones-Drew completed his first workout with the team since a season-ending foot injury in October. He competed without setbacks, without pain and without apprehension -- all positive signs for the three-time Pro Bowler and for the rebuilding Jaguars.

"It just feels comfortable making those cuts and knowing there's no pain in the foot, ankle, whatever," Jones-Drew said. "Not running for eight months, it's like, 'Can I still do it?' But I've been playing football for 20 years and it's just natural."

The bigger test will be seeing how his left foot feels after a couple days, maybe even a few weeks.

"The main thing for me is just getting back to where I can carry the ball 20 or 25 times a game," he added. "Obviously, right now, I feel like I can do it. But it's different when you're getting the ball play after play after play."

Jones-Drew got about a dozen repetitions with the first-team offence Friday. His best play was his last, when he caught a pass and reached full stride before getting touched down.

"I feel like I had a little burst," he said. "I feel like I did some old stuff. I just want to continue that and continue on that track."

Jones-Drew injured his foot on the first play of a 26-23 loss at Oakland on Oct. 21. It turned out to be a Lisfranc injury, a dislocation or fracture of bones in his left midfoot. He tried rehabbing with rest, but doctors eventually decided he needed surgery.

He had surgery in December, missed all of off-season drills and was unsure whether he would be cleared for the start of camp. But team doctors gave him the green light earlier this week, and he was in the backfield for the first snap Friday.

"We have a plan for Maurice, to see him make some cuts and see him go through the line and catch some balls and things like that in practice," coach Gus Bradley said. "He's right where we thought he would be. We're going to continue to work him and monitor his reps, but we'll bring him along. It was great to see him back out there. I know he had a lot of excitement. He's been waiting for this day for a long time."

Aside from Jones-Drew's return, the practice was one to forget for Jacksonville's offence.

Blaine Gabbert threw two interceptions in 11-on-11 drills, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Chad Henne, who is competing with Gabbert for the starting job, also had an interception returned for a score.

"One thing that I was impressed with was just how they did handle a punch," Bradley said. "Some of the interceptions, I think, were missed assignments by receivers, but then there were times where we have to make good decisions. The decisions weren't acceptable in our standards. Blaine and Chad both understand that.

"We've got to tighten those things up, and I know some of those things are going to happen. We're going to coach them up and try to eliminate them."

The Jaguars opened camp without five players. Receiver Justin Blackmon (groin), receiver Taylor Price (foot) and centre Stephane Milhim (foot) are on the physically unable to perform list, while offensive lineman Mark Asper (knee) and safety Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) are on the non-football injury list.

Several others joined them on the sideline Friday, most of them because of minor cramping. Receiver Jeremy Ebert was the lone injury, banging his head while colliding with a defender near the goal line.

Defensive end Jason Babin, who had groin surgery in early June, was on the field in a limited role. So was defensive tackle Roy Miller, who missed much of off-season drills because of knee tendinitis.

But all eyes were on Jones-Drew, who has totalled 4,735 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns as the centerpiece of the offence the last four years.

"Maurice is a pro," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "He's been doing this for a while and he knows how to get ready for a football season. We know he's going to play to the best of his ability and he's got to be smart at the same time. But it's always good to see 32 on the field -- always good."

Maurice Jones-Drew (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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