ADAM JONES has
become famous for so many reasons—making it rain, flirting with pro wrestling,
trying to rap, being interrogated by police, being interrogated by Roger
Goodell—that it's hard to recall whether his football ability was ever one of
Jones is back on
the field after a yearlong suspension for his off-field misdeeds, finding
refuge in the most predictable place. Dallas has become the Boys Town of the
NFL, owner Jerry Jones its Father Flanagan. Have a problem with your
quarterback, your firearm or the Las Vegas police department? Here, as Flanagan
says in the movie, there is no such thing as a bad boy.
Two years ago the
Cowboys reformed wide receiver Terrell Owens, who had a history of alienating
quarterbacks. Last year they brought in nosetackle Tank Johnson, who liked to
store heavy artillery in his home. But those two are Silly Putty compared with
Adam Jones, who has been arrested six times and had at least 10 encounters with
police since Tennessee took him with the sixth pick in 2005. Even for Boys
Town, Jones represents something of a challenge.
new?" Owens says. "With Jerry, you know the unexpected will
It's obvious why
Dallas took a chance on Owens, perhaps the best receiver of his generation.
Johnson, while not as celebrated, helped anchor the Bears' defensive line when
they went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. But Jones, who was expected to
be formally reinstated by Goodell sometime before the season opener, has not
played since '06, when he had four interceptions and returned three punts for
touchdowns. He was an exciting young talent, but no Pro Bowl player. The
Cowboys, after trading a fourth- and a sixth-round pick to the Titans for him
in April, slotted Jones as their third cornerback.
Why assume such
risk for a guy who fills out the nickel package? Despite what the depth chart
says, the club believes Jones has Deion Sanders--like athletic ability and
plans to exploit it. Coach Wade Phillips says he might use Jones at receiver as
well as on defense and have him return kickoffs in addition to punts. Clearly,
Jones will soon start at corner.
exceptionally quick, and he's got the great speed," Phillips says. "But
he's also got a knack that some players don't have for seeing the football when
he's playing man-to-man. A lot of players can only see their guy. He can see
his guy, but he sees the ball at the same time."
In training camp
veteran cornerbacks often position themselves to cover rookie receivers in
one-on-one drills. But in Cowboys camp Jones went the other way, setting up to
face Owens as much as possible. Whenever Jones broke up a pass, secondary coach
Dave Campo came running over barking, "Nice job, Pac!" (Jones says he's
fine with teammates and coaches using his well-known nickname; the media is
Owens and Johnson
are fashioning themselves as mentors to Jones—which not long ago would have
been an amusing notion. Their protégé will need more polish, as evidenced by
Jones's reflections on the Titans. "I don't mean to say anything bad about
Tennessee," he said early in camp. "But I don't ever want to go back to
Tennessee. It sucks."
Dallas had the
most talented team in the NFL before Jones arrived, and now it is even more so.
The secondary, a perceived weak spot when it ranked 13th in pass defense last
season, includes Jones, Terence Newman, Ken Hamlin, Roy Williams, Anthony Henry
and rookie Mike Jenkins—a frightening ensemble.