If Blaine Gabbert is going to have any chance of turning this thing around in 2012, he'll need Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Blackmon by his side.
Unfortunately for the quarterback, both players are absent as the Jacksonville Jaguars begin training camp. Blackmon should arrive sooner rather than later, his DUI arrest last month providing a snag in rookie contract talks.
But Jones-Drew? It's a legitimate storm cloud resting over the Jaguars' franchise. Citing sources with knowledge of the situation, NFL.com and NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported Thursday that Jones-Drew is prepared to sit out all of training camp, if not longer.
"When I talk to him, I've even asked him, for the team, to be here," Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said, via The Associated Press. "But guys have their own agenda. Being in the NFL, it's about the team, but you also have to take care of home. I'm pretty sure that's what he's doing. We'll be behind him regardless. I can't wait for him to get here, though."
Jones-Drew has two years remaining on the five-year contract that pays him significantly less in the final two years. It's your classic front-loaded contract, but the running back believes his high level of play in the first three years warrants a reward. Jaguars owner Shad Khan and general manager Gene Smith don't agree.
"He's a competitor; he loves football," Knighton said. "Hopefully that's what bothers him the most about being away from the team and not being on the field and wants to come back. ... I hope he hurries back."
We suggest Knighton not hold his breath.