Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that his absence from the team's offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp is contract related -- something general manager Gene Smith admitted two weeks ago.
"This is the side of the NFL that's just as real as Sunday," Jones-Drew told NFL Network by phone.
"This is what the NFL is really about. What I can say is that I hope that we can get something done," Jones-Drew added. "To talk about it in the media is not going to help. Hopefully we can have something where we can be able to get out there and play in the future."
Jones-Drew, who led the NFL in rushing last season, has two years and $9.4 million dollars left on a deal Smith said the team won't re-negotiate.
There is speculation that Jones-Drew will hold out of training camp and be subject to fines of $30,000 per day. The Jaguars could also choose to fine Jones-Drew $60,000 for missing a recent three-day, mandatory minicamp.
Jones-Drew also said he looks forward to improving the team's offense this season and working with second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, whom the running back staunchly defended after offseason criticism.
"I get tired of people blaming him," Jones-Drew said of Gabbert, who struggled through his rookie season. "There (are) no excuses for how we played because we're professionals, but Blaine stuck in there, played through a lot of injuries and a lot of different things people didn't know about. He never complained. He came to work every day and did a real good job.
"Blaine deserves a lot of credit for what he did. ... I've talked with him and I think we'll be ready."