Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew ends holdout

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended his 38-day holdout – without a new contract.

Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew returned to the team after ending his 38-day holdout on Sunday. He tried to renegotiate his contract but the Jags didn't budge.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew returned to the team after ending his 38-day holdout on Sunday. He tried to renegotiate his contract but the Jags didn't budge.

Jones-Drew arrived at the facility Sunday morning and chatted with teammates before meeting with coaches.

ESPN first reported Jones-Drew’s decision.

“Just shared some love with (at)Jones_Drew32 in the locker room,” Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings posted on his Twitter page. “Glad to see you back - Let’s work brah!”

The NFL’s leading rusher in 2011, Jones-Drew skipped the team’s entire offseason in a nasty contract dispute. With coach Mike Mularkey able to fine him up to $30,000 a day – plus $60,000 for a three-day, mandatory minicamp – Jones-Drew could be out $1.2 million this season. He is scheduled to make $4.45 million in 2012 and $4.95 million next year.

Jones-Drew 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.

REFEREES: The NFL referees union says the league is “engaged in a misinformation campaign” following unsuccessful negotiations earlier in the weekend.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement Saturday when they met for the third day in a row, and the league said it’s proceeding with replacement officials.

The NFL locked out the referees in early June, and hired replacements, whose work in exhibition games has been heavily criticized. On Sunday, it sent teams a memo saying it upped its offer to the union and thought it was close to a deal, but the union says “there was no agreement ... to do anything other than to meet on Saturday. Any claim that numbers were agreed to before Saturday is absolutely false.”

PANTHERS: Coach Ron Rivera said wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Jon Beason are expected to play in the season opener against Tampa Bay after both returned to practice.

However, Rivera isn’t sure about running back Jonathan Stewart, who remains out with a sprained ankle.

“We’ll see,” Rivera said when asked if Stewart will be ready for the Bucs. “We don’t know until he gets out here and starts running around.”

COWBOYS: Tight end Jason Witten won’t know until Tuesday if he will be cleared to play in the season opener.

Witten is set to have a CT scan before the team leaves for New York to determine if his lacerated spleen is healed. Owner Jerry Jones says that scan probably will dictate if the seven-time Pro Bowl tight end gets to play against the Giants on Wednesday night.

Witten had limited participation in practice Sunday, but says he’s doing everything he can to be ready to play if he’s cleared.


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