Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023 | 4:01 p.m.
NFL history is littered with players who either held out or contemplated retirement in the summer only to come back and cite skipping the grind of training camp as benefit of their delayed return.
Don’t count Raiders running back Josh Jacobs among the group. The 25-year-old Jacobs returned to the Raiders for their first post-training camp practice Wednesday in Henderson after a prolonged contract dispute, and said he took no joy in being away from the team. He missed it.
“One of the hardest things to do in football is watch, at least for a guy like me,” Jacobs said Wednesday afternoon. “I was itching to get back, man. So, to be able to come and make it make sense for both parties was definitely huge.”
Jacobs and the Raiders agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $12 million with incentives this weekend. He wasn’t fined for his training camp absence as he wasn’t technically under contract after refusing to sign a $10.1 million franchise tender this offseason.
“There ain’t no hard feelings now,” Jacobs said. “We made it happen, so it’s a clean slate with me now. It was never really hate on either side. I understood it, but at the same time, I understood my value, too. It was just about meeting in the middle.”
The situation between Jacobs and the organization originated with a decision made more than a year ago by general manager Dave Ziegler, who opted to decline the running back’s fifth-year rookie option for around $8 million. That quickly looked like a mistake, as Jacobs had a career season under first-year coach Josh McDaniels to emerge as the league’s leading rusher with 1,653 yards on the ground.
He believed the performance showed he earned a long-term contract, but the deadline for such a deal passed with no major progress made by Jacobs and the Raiders. Jacobs reportedly then boarded a plane back to his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., and didn’t book a return flight until talks of an improved one-year contract heated up last week.
“There’s nobody in our building who doesn’t love him — coaches, players, support staff,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “Everybody is excited to see him. I think he’s excited to be here, loves being Raider.”
McDaniels said he would have to assess where Jacobs was from an “overall conditioning and readiness” standpoint before determining his workload for the season opener on Sept. 10. But Jacobs said he didn’t foresee any limitations and described mental challenges like reacquainting with the playbook as a larger hurdle.
Even while he was away from the team, Jacobs kept a similar offseason program to the one he credited for springing him to last year’s rushing title. And while he wasn’t practicing with professionals, he did still work out with fellow football players — at his alma mater of McLain High School in Oklahoma.
“Just being able to mentor them, be around them and show them what it takes to get to the next level was just a fun experience honestly,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs practiced in full Wednesday, sporting his brand-new No. 8 jersey that he’s switching to for this season after having previously worn No. 28. He canceled a planned news conference with reporters afterwards because he was feeling ill, but still answered questions via Zoom call.
His biggest talking point was how happy he was to be back, and the feeling was mutual.
“Same old Josh,” running back Brandon Bolden said. “He was away from football. He missed it. We missed him. We’re back to work and having him out there today was big for everyone including him.”
Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or