Since being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, wide receiver TJ Jones’s rookie season hasn’t exactly gone the way he hoped or expected. He had off-season shoulder surgery from a preexisting injury that he suffered at Notre Dame. Unfortunately, his injury it got worse during Lion OTAs, so the Lions placed him on the physically unable to perform list throughout training camp. Then after not being able to perform during training camp or preseason play, the Lions decided to keep him on the reserve/physically unable to perform for the regular season, which means Jones must sit out the first six weeks of the 2014 season.
While that may not seem like a big deal to some, considering it does allow Jones to get healthy and regroup, it can add new level of stress to the young rookie’s mind considering the possible fallout. According to Tim Twentyman, after sitting out for the first six weeks of the season, the Lions will have a five-week window which will allow Jones to begin practicing. The day he begins practicing, the team has an additional 21-day window to decide to activate him to the 53-man roster or sit him out the rest of the year.
Although, this could add some stress to a young rookie’s mindset, Jones say he isn’t worried about that right now, he is simply working hard to get healthy.
“[My journey to get healthy] is going well.” said Jones. “I’m doing everything I can off the field to kinda prepare myself for when I do come back, certain things like getting my weight back and getting my strength back-up from the surgery. Right now, I don’t really have any complaints other than not being able to play but everything else is going well.”
While it is frustrating for him to not be able to be on the field right now, Jones said he is simply taking advantage of the time that he has to not only get healthy but to also master the playbook and become an even better student of the game.
“It’s very important.” Jones said when asked about how important it is to be a student of the game while he is out. “Coming in whichever week I can, there’s not going to be time for mental errors. I’m not going to have the same grace period to learn the playbook because everyone else is already going to know it like the back of their hand because they have been [practicing]. So I’m going to have to come in and not only know my position but also know everyone else’s position to make sure that I can jump in at any position on the field and not messed up.”
Even though, Jones will enter practice without a grace period, I honestly feel Jones will be fine once he gets back on the fact, in fact he could be a little ahead of the game. You have to remember, coming out of Notre Dame, Jones was already a polished receiver who not only started most of his four seasons in college but was also extremely productive during his four years there. Now to be around great receivers like Calvin Johnson and another former Notre Dame standout like Golden Tate, will only help to enhance Jones skill set and understanding of the game, as he continues to become familiar with the playbook and his role on this Lions team.
“By the time I get on the field, it will have been so long since I had pads on that I’m going to be hungry.” replied Jones. “Your going to see someone out there with an attitude and with a swag about themselves to come back and to commit to making a difference. [I want to come in] helping this team to get better, whether it is on offense, specials team or the return game. [When I get back on the field your] going to see someone coming back hungry who is going to do what they have to do to help this team win.”
I don’t know about you but I only expect that Jones will succeed when he gets on the field. During his time at Notre Dame, he made the Biletnikoff watch list, three times. He ended his career as one of six wideouts in school history with at least 150 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdown grabs, not to mention he became the seventh different Irish receiver to break the 1,000-yard plateau for a single season, when he led the Irish with 70 receptions, 1,108 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as senior.
Beyond his impressive stats, Jones will simply offer another polished receiver that the Lions can count on to make plays. I know at 6 foot and 180 pounds, Jones probably could stand to add some more weight but his lack of weight doesn’t change the fact that he is an athletic, smooth and polished receiver who runs crisp routes and has terrific hands to make plays. Although he will be playing under great receivers like Johnson and Tate, there is no doubt that Jones will bring a balanced skill set, dependability and versatility to the Lions, regardless of whether he is the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver on the depth chart.
“I’m just going to play my role and whatever role that may be.” Jones said. “Obviously being a third or fourth receiver to Calvin [Johnson] and Golden [Tate], I’m going to come in and play my role. Do what I have to do to help them get open and when they get the chance, they will help myself and other receivers to get open and we’ll make plays when our names are called and we’re just going to run with it.”
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Editor for Radio One Detroit
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