Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew addresses the New England media during his conference call on Tuesday, December 22, 2009.
Q: How is it going to be facing Fred Taylor?
MJD: It's going to be exciting. This weekend, Fred [Taylor] and I were talking a little bit and I asked him if he was going to play and I didn't get a response back, so I kind of figured it was a "yeah." It's going to be exciting. A guy who pretty much motivated me into the player I am today all-around - blocking, being able to run and see different things, throw the ball where I can catch out of the backfield, different routes he showed me how to run. It's going to be a real emotional game because I think there were about 10 or 12 of us that Fred kind of raised into the league, so it's going to be real emotional. It's going to be fun and it's going to be exciting, but I am not really going up against him. I am going against Brandon Meriweather, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, those guys who are playing at a high level right now against the run. So it's going to be a fun and exciting game. A guy that I played in college with, Matthew Slater, I might see him on special teams.
Q: Fred [Taylor] talked about in the past how you two coexisted in the backfield and how people expected diligent competition. Were you surprised that he welcomed you in when you were drafted in 2006?
MJD: Yes, definitely. You hear all these stories about how veteran players give you the cold shoulder, thinking they brought you in to take their spot, but it was different when I got here. Fred came to me with open arms. He said, "I'm willing to teach you if you are willing to learn and listen." To hear one of the best players at the time - and still, now - say something like that turned our relationship into what it is now. It was more off the field than on the field. He showed me the ropes around Jacksonville and obviously coming from Los Angeles with no money to Jacksonville, having a little bit of money he helped me with how to manage my money and with whom to talk to. We talked about a lot of different things. When I didn't have someone to cook for me at home when my parents weren't out here, he would invite me over to his house to come eat and hang out with his family. Those things definitely opened my eyes to the man. A lot of people don't know Fred because he is quiet, but he opened up with me and we talked about everything from football to life, money, to going back to school and graduating, to pretty much everything. He definitely put a big impact on my life.
Q: How did he [Fred Taylor] tell you he was leaving Jacksonville and what was your reaction?
MJD: I was in California at the time when I got a text message from him and he said, "I think they are going to release me, it's been a pleasure playing with you." I was in awe. The best thing about Fred is that he understood the business side of it. I was coming into a new contract and he was coming into a big money deal and the ownership had to make decision. He came to me with the same thing, he wished me the best of luck and if I ever need anything to call him. There were no hard feelings. We actually trained together in the offseason which was fun, just going out training with him and working with him, and competing with him out there. We still talk today. When he told me that, granted I was hurt obviously because he was the guy that brought me into this league, but he explained it to me and I knew it was a business decision there was nothing we could do about it. We just had to continue to learn and grow obviously together but apart. So he's in Boston while I am down here. We talk and we do a lot of things. This offseason, we will get together again and hang out and work out.
Q: You said you guys trained together?
MJD: Yes, this past summer, we did train together in Southern Florida.
Q: What facility did you use?
MJD: Bommarito Performance in South Florida.
Q: How much have you and Fred [Taylor] talked this year?
MJD: We talk every couple of weeks. Obviously, in the beginning, we were talking a lot because he was getting adjusted. When he got his injury, we talked a little bit during that time, which I knew was a hard time. We just talked about life and maybe doing some stuff off the field later on. That's how our relationship is, [it is] not only about football, but also about other things. A lot of players in the league have relationships outside of football. Obviously, when you play together, it makes that relationship stronger. But the majority of the time we talk it's not about football, it's about life. "How's your family?" He knew I just had a son, so he asked how my son is doing. I ask how his son is that he just had and how his two boys are doing. It's little stuff like that that makes our relationship more personable and much more than football. It's going to be an emotional time going up there and seeing a guy that you have been playing with, and growing up watching, and seeing him wearing a different color and wearing his old No. 21.
Q: Do you think the fantasy football world has wasted you after taking the knee at the 1-yard line?
MJD: I hope so. It was a little tough for me that week. It was a week where I needed to win to make the playoffs and I found someway to make it into the playoffs. Right now, I am in the championship round. I am just playing well, so hopefully people have embraced and understood it was a business decision. It was more business than pleasure.
Q: Is it true that you play fantasy football with yourself?
MJD: Yeah, if I didn't, that would mean I would have to throw games and that wouldn't be right.
Q: Whom do you play against?
MJD: I play with a bunch of guys either in the front office or the equipment room. It's kind of a Jaguars deal; it's just for bragging rights.
Q: Obviously, if you get into the playoffs, you will have to go on the road and I know you have been in that situation before. Can you talk about how tough it is to go on the road in the playoffs? What are some of the challenges you have faced or overcome in the past?
MJD: The main thing is the crowd noise, the atmosphere of the cameras and different things like that. That's what makes the playoffs different than everything else. The speed of the game changes, but more than anything it is the crowd noise. The crowd is always into it. It's their team, they are at home and it's a playoff game for them. You are on national television, so you are the only game playing [on television]. You have every major media camera there. It's a big difference. And one way we were able to adjust with it was to keep that mentality as if it was another game we have to go out there and play. It has been a little tough here for us going on the road because we haven't preformed well. I think guys are starting to understand if we do execute our game plan and go out there and play well, we have a great opportunity and a great shot at winning games.
Q: This year you are getting more carries and more of a load. How has your body responded?
MJD: When Fred [Taylor] texted me saying he was getting released, he told me to promise him I wouldn't do anything different with my training because he did and had to do more to try to excel when you are already training your body to start and take the pounding. That is why we do train together because we do different things, whether it is running hills, or if we are pulling sleds, whatever we are doing, we do it as if we are the starters. I kept the same routine and did a lot of extra stretching so I could stay loose. I pretty much got a routine watching Fred do his and by watching Fred Jones do his. I bought a hyperbaric chamber bed that I sleep in. I do treatment everyday and I do abs Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays. I go to the chiropractor Mondays and Fridays, and I also get massages Mondays and Fridays. I do a lot of different things that I think a lot of players do. You just want to stick to what helps you recover throughout the week and get your body closest to 100 percent as you can on Sundays.
Q: Did you see this year as a big year for you becoming a starter?
MJD: It's a great opportunity and a blessing to be able to start in this league because of how many great running backs there are on teams. I think I was blessed to be able to learn from one of the best. My whole thought coming in was to do whatever I could to help the team win. That is all you can do, whether it's running the ball 100 times, or blocking 100 times, or catching 100 times. Coming here and starting here and seeing how it was done with Fred [Taylor], Marcus Stroud, Mike Peterson, John Henderson, and Donovin Darius, they just preformed. They didn't worry about what anyone was saying, they just came out and played. And I think that is was a leader is. They didn't really talk they just went out and played. Coming in I just wanted to do whatever I could to help this team win and that has been my mentality ever since.