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Maurice Jones-Drew could play in opener, coach says

Though the Maurice Jones-Drew holdout continues with little signs of stopping anytime soon, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey hasn't ruled out having the NFL's reigning rushing leader in his backfield for the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

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"It depends on him. What kind of shape he's in," Mularkey said according to Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union. "How fast he picks up the system. I'm not going to put him in a position where he has any chance to fail because in the long run, we all fail. I'm not going to expose him to failure. It's not going to happen.

"If he's ready and all those conditioning wise (things), and he picks it up immediately, the faster he can progress, yes. I don't know where we're at right now. I have no idea."

There is no reason to suggest that Jones-Drew isn't in shape. Coming off knee surgery, Jones-Drew reported back from the lockout in phenomenal shape and was second in the NFL behind Ray Rice in yards from scrimmage (1,980).

Being in top physical shape is not the same thing as being in football shape, though -- a lesson learned the hard way by running back Chris Johnson after his holdout from Tennessee Titans training camp last summer.

If the Jaguars were to open the season today, Rashad Jennings would be the starter. The fourth-year back leads the AFC with 175 rushing yards this preseason.

Follow Brian McIntyre on Twitter @brian_mcintyre.

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