Maurice Jones-Drew: Jags disrespected
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maurice Jones-Drew isn't claiming a conspiracy, but he does see a troubling trend.
"It's funny, the only time you see us on highlights is when it's somebody else's highlights. They go back to find that team against the Jaguars. It's crazy and it's real disrespectful. I've brought it up a bunch of times. It just adds fuel to the fire. NFL Network, ESPN, they all do it. Every time."
Message received: Everybody thinks we're a joke. It just keeps us going through this hot camp, keep working hard. That's our motivation. We try to joke about it, but sometimes it's hard to joke.” -- Maurice Jones-Drew
Jones-Drew knows the national storylines about the Jaguars are about ticket sales, potential blackouts and long-term instability. But after a practice in scorching Jacksonville heat while he picked through a salad, he said there will be more to read than that this fall.
"Message received: Everybody thinks we're a joke," he said. "It just keeps us going through this hot camp, keep working hard. That's our motivation. We try to joke about it, but sometimes it's hard to joke."
The Jaguars finished in last place in the AFC South last season at 7-9. They were 7-4 heading into the last month of the season before falling apart.
Veteran safety Gerald Alexander said he's seen a lot of the highlights Jones-Drew talked about, and that a lot keyed on one guy.
"Obviously Chris Johnson had an amazing year and some of the highlights came on us," he said. "I don't necessarily see us getting picked on. It just happens to be some of the best camera angles on those plays, I guess."
Like players all around the league early in camp, Jones-Drew is filled with optimism and hope. The Jaguars won't remain a punch line, he said.
"We've gotten better," he said. "... I feel like we're heading in the right direction, I feel like we're going to be a team that a lot of people will take notice of. I couldn't care less what people think. What they think is not going to determine the outcome of a game. It's what we think and what we feel and how we play -- fast, relentless, no mental mistakes, a smart team that's going to give you 100 percent.
"You know in a pickup basketball game, that last guy is that hustle guy you want because he's going to be diving for the ball and getting rebounds? That's what we're going to be. We can be the last pick, that's alright. We're going to win the games. We want to win the division, that's our goal."
Alexander also steered away from making an outright prediction, talking about the work he and his teammates are putting in instead of what he expects they will get out.
"It's always negativity when it comes to the Jaguars -- whether it's all the blackouts, the struggle to sell season tickets or us not winning," he said. "So it's time to kind of change that. Change the culture here and the culture around the league about who we are, and that's winners ...
"We're working to be that division champ, hopefully Super Bowl champ. No matter what the perception is of us, it's going to change by the end of the season."
Paul Kuharsky covers the AFC South for ESPN.com.