JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Maurice Jones-Drew scribbled his name on the paper, sighed and whispered ”it’s over with.”
Well, just this phase.
Jones-Drew signed a one-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday, ceremoniously retiring with the team that drafted him in 2006 and ending a nine-year career that included 13,348 all-purpose yards and 81 touchdowns.
”This is the first contract I’ll sign for no money,” he said.
Jones-Drew still has to submit retirement paperwork to the league office, but the former UCLA star has no plans to return to the field. He’s not straying far from the game, though.
Next stop: the broadcast booth.
He has narrowed his options to NFL Network and Fox Sports, both based near his California home.
Jones-Drew should make a smooth transition from athlete to analyst. After all, he’s never been shy about sharing his opinion. He once ripped Jay Cutler for leaving the Super Bowl with an injury. He also has said he would hide a concussion to stay in a game?
He offered a few more Tuesday, speaking out about the ”senseless violence” in Baltimore and guaranteeing at least three running backs would be drafted in the first round Thursday night and eight in the first two rounds.
”I was going to tweet it, but I decided to give it to you all as my gift to you,” Jones-Drew told reporters. ”So when it happens, you all can look like you know what you’re doing – finally.”
Just like many of his carries, Jones-Drew’s retirement ceremony was a show.
He got it started by visiting Wolfson Children’s Hospital to see the playroom he donated through the Maurice Jones-Drew Foundation. He did a spot on local radio, met privately with coach Gus Bradley, got his first look at the stadium’s new scoreboards and wading pools, checked in with former teammates and then got a front-row seat for a video tribute.
It started with congratulations from former teammates Fred Taylor, David Garrard and Greg Jones.
Then – with his wife, three kids, mother and agent sitting next to him – Jones-Drew got to relive his thumping block on defensive end Shawne Merriman, memorable runs against New England, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. There was also that heady play in the final minutes against the New York Jets in which he took a knee at the 1-yard line instead of scoring so the Jaguars could run down the clock before kicking the game-winning field goal.
Those were just some of his career highlights.
He scored 16 touchdowns as a rookie and became a household name long before he was a starter. He spent eight years in Jacksonville – he ranked second in the NFL with 4,321 yards rushing between 2009 and 2011 – before returning to his hometown Oakland Raiders last season. He gained 96 yards on 43 carries in 12 games.
He finished with 8,167 yards rushing and 2,944 yards receiving. He also had a passing touchdown.
His bruising style took its toll on his body. He played with torn knee cartilage in 2010, had a season-ending foot injury in 2012 and broke a hand in the 2014 season opener.
All those injuries started telling Jones-Drew it was time.
”It’s kind of like, `OK, things are starting to hurt that normally don’t hurt,”’ he said. ”I started working out again this year, got to about 215 (pounds) and I was like `OK, I’m getting it.’ Then I saw my kids and they started going to school and I didn’t want to miss that anymore. I’ve done enough. They’ve sacrificed enough. It’s time for me to do the same.”
Once he made the decision, he headed to a Mexican restaurant and celebrated with four plates of nachos.
”At the end of the day, you want to get out of this thing healthy,” he said. ”I want to be able to run around with these (kids) over here. All they do is run and jump and want to tackle. I want to be able to do these things and be able to play basketball with my son and be able to play tether ball or whatever these kids are doing these days.”
He did have a moment of hesitation recently, though, while playing flag football against some high school kids and ”tearing `em up.”
”I almost called my agent and was like, `Hey man, I think I’ve still got it. Make a couple of phone calls,”’ he joked.
Those thoughts didn’t last long.
”I feel like the game gave me so much,” he said. ”I gave it a little back: a little knee cartilage, a foot, a hand. But there’s nothing like this game.”