It's been quite a rollercoaster ride for Maurice Jones-Drew this off-season. The newly acquired Raiders running back went from have doubts in his abilities to the point where he considered the possibility of retirement, to placing a new emphasis on getting back to the back he once was.
Last season was the worst of Jones-Drew's career. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry and it clearly wasn't the same back he had been. The former All Pro running back, now at the age of 29, had serious questions about his abilities, as did onlookers. The Jaguars among them.
Every NFL player comes to the point eventually where they must decide whether they can still do the things they once did. Running back is the position with the shortest shelf life and for many of them, they see the expiration date approaching at age 30.
With the quick decline in his abilities, it was a logical question for MJD to ask himself.
"For a while, I was contemplating retirement because I just didn't feel like I had it anymore." Jones-Drew told the Los Angeles Times.
"I watched the same tape and I'd say, 'Man, why'd I do this? Why didn't I do that?' Part of it was just physically. I wasn't able to do some of the same things I'm used to doing."
One of the last things to go for an NFL player is the desire. The mind is willing but the body says otherwise. For MJD, however, there was a specific turning point and it had nothing to do with age. He broke his foot and it sent his performance spiraling.
"(In 2012) I was leading the league in rushing after game five and then I broke my foot," MJD said in a phone interview back in March.
"I have a ton left in my game. I think people seem to look at running backs and say ‘Oh, you're 29, you don't have anything left' well, last year I was coming off a major foot surgery which most people don't even play until a year after and I played 15 games with. Then I didn't get an off-season to work out, I just kind of toughed it out through the season and then did everything I could to help us be as successful as possible."
Toughing out last season was made more difficult when he was hobbled on the famous Charles Woodson "Superman" tackle in week two against the Raiders. After fighting through the injury all last season, he began to show improvement over the final five games of the season and his yards per carry jumped up to his career average of 4.5.
Doubt can be a bitter pill to swallow, but one MJD needed to take if he hoped to get back on track. It pushed him to get back to the kind of workout regimen that every NFL player must have, but more importantly veterans who must overcompensate to keep up with the younger players.
"I'm in the best shape of my life now, running fast, running hills, pulling sleds, cutting, jumping," he said. "I've rededicated myself to my craft again."
Being back home in the Bay Area where he grew up and playing for his favorite team is plenty of motivation. Reviving and extending his career with something to prove to his doubters is another solid piece of motivation. It's a chance he was not given anywhere else and yet any team should want a player with that kind of drive and proven track record behind him.