Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
Adam Lands In Canada
“It’ll be a good experience for me to get back in game shape and compete and play football, which I like to do,” Jones told SI.com. “I’m real happy for the opportunity that’s been given to me. Of course it’s disappointing to me to not be playing in the NFL. But things happen and you have to adjust. “
The issue with Jones, who turns 26 on Sept. 30, has never been physical skills; it has been off-the-field incidents. He was suspended for the 2007 season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and last year after being traded from Tennessee to Dallas he was suspended for four games following an altercation with a team-employed bodyguard.
Several NFL general managers said in the last week that Jones has the skill set to be a productive player, but one added: “He’s already got 2 1/2 strikes against him, so he’s just not worth the time.”
John Murphy, the Blue Bombers’ director of player personnel, understands that sentiment. But he says none of the NFL coaches or personnel people he has spoken with the last two weeks has called Jones a bad teammate or malingerer, and Jones has not had any run-ins with the law since 2007.
“If I was in the same position in the NFL I might have a lot more reservations,” Murphy said. “But for me it’s a win-win. I’m smart enough to know that if I’m looking for somebody who can be a playmaker for the second half of our season, there isn’t a better football player who’s not in the NFL, at 25 years old, who’s ready to play football, is going to play with a chip on his shoulder, and is going to bring some fun and excitement to our team, our locker room, our city, and our league.
“And at the same time it’s a business decision as well as football decision. From a marketing standpoint, a business standpoint and a football standpoint, I could go to 100 NFL training camps and every preseason game and more people will hear and know about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the next two weeks — from the coverage we’ll receive — than in the last 10 years.”
Financial terms were not immediately available, but they were good enough for Jones to pass up a contract offer from the fledgling United Football League. The deal with the Blue Bombers came together over the last two weeks, according to Jones’ representatives, Jason Fletcher and Warrick Robinson.
Fletcher said money was only one factor in the decision to sign with Winnipeg. Others included opportunities to play in 10 games versus six in the UFL, to be in an established league versus one that is just starting up, and to play offense and special teams as well as defense.
Another key factor: The CFL could offer him quicker return to the NFL.
UFL players are prohibited from jumping to the NFL prior to Dec. 1, but CFL players can depart earlier if granted a release from their contract. Murphy said Jones has led him to believe that he wants to play the remainder of the season, which ends Nov. 8 (Nov. 29 for the playoffs). But he added: “Nothing is written in stone.”
Fletcher and Robinson said there are no restrictions on Jones returning to the NFL this season. “He’s eligible now, meaning today’s date, to sign or play with an NFL team. He’s in good standing with the NFL office. There’s nothing pending, no restrictions.” The NFL office confirmed that Jones is good standing.
Jones struggled at times last season after returning from the one-year suspension, but says he has dropped 8-10 pounds and is back to his playing weight from 2006, when he played at an elite level in his second season with the Titans. He has been working out in his hometown of Atlanta in preparation of an eventual signing with an NFL club — if not now, then later in the year.
“All of the NFL teams I’m talking to told me they will be monitoring his progress every week, in games and in practice,” Fletcher says. “They said once he shows that the physical ability has not eroded, and once he shows that he can keep clean, he’ll get another shot, without a doubt.”
For now, that shot will begin with the CFL.