THOMAS JONES: I'm very, very excited. I had a great time in Chicago, and it was a great experience for me playing there [and] making it to the Super Bowl last year with those guys. But I'm very, very excited to be here in New York. It's a great city. We had a chance to play the Jets this year, and the energy and the excitement that we felt up here at the Meadowlands and just being in New York in general was something that was special. I'm excited about the opportunity. They have a great team. They have a lot of great players on this team, and I'm just excited about being here.
You're going to be coming in perhaps a year removed from Curtis Martin's tenure here. He didn't play last year obviously, but a lot of fans will connect you to Curtis as being the next in the line of featured tailbacks that can help the Jets greatly. How do you feel about moving into that same role that Curtis filled for a number of numbers?
THOMAS JONES: Curtis Martin is one of the best backs of all time in the NFL. Like I said, I'm just excited about being here in New York [and] having an opportunity to help this team win. They have an exciting team. They have a lot of great players, like I said before. I'm just one of the guys on the team that's of the mentality to come in and just try to help this program and get to the level that they're trying to get to.
What's your understanding of your role? Are you going to be a featured guy, or are you just going to have 15 to 20 carries a game? What have the Jets told you?
THOMAS JONES: I'm here to help this team win. The best players play, and that's a great situation to be in there because it's an opportunity to go out there and compete. Competition makes everyone better. My mentality is just to come in here, do the best I can to be productive on the field and the meeting room and the weight room and just be the leader that I've been at the Chicago Bears and bring something positive to the team.
Do you have a preference? Some guys say that they need 20 carries before they get going. What's your approach to that?
THOMAS JONES: Any time you're a skill guy and you have a ball in your hands, you love the opportunity to make plays to help the team win. Obviously you want to get as many opportunities as possible.
But that will be proven in practice, and that's what I'm looking forward to is getting a chance to go into the offseason program, [and] getting to know my teammates. I know a couple of guys up here that came in the draft with me, and I've met guys just being in the NFL. I'm just excited about getting a chance to meet these guys on this team. Everyone has said a lot of positive things about this organization and the players on this team, and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Did the contract extension talks go fairly easily, and was everyone on the same page with that?
THOMAS JONES: As for the extension, that is between the organization and my agent. I really didn't have much to do with that. I actually just came in, met everyone, had great conversations with everyone, and I just left that up to my agent.
You accounted for more offense in the last two seasons than everybody but Tiki Barber. Why would the Bears want to trade you?
THOMAS JONES: That's one situation that you might want to address with the Bears. I had a great, great time in Chicago. I want to thank Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith and the Bears organization for giving me the opportunity to come in there as a free agent. They definitely gave me a spark in my career. All the guys that I played with in Chicago we were always very, very close, and we had a special season last year making it to the Super Bowl. And the fans of Chicago and the city of Chicago showed us so much support, showed me so much support, that it's something I'll never forget.
But in the NFL, sometimes it doesn't go the way that you may think it's going to go, and you just adjust. Like I said, that situation is something that you might want to address with the Bears.
Can Cedric Benson flourish as your replacement?
THOMAS JONES: Cedric Benson has a lot of talent. He's a talented guy. When you move into the feature role, there is a lot more responsibility. Coach [Tim] Spencer is a great running backs coach. I had a great relationship with him, not only as a coach but as a friend. He had so much advice for me just to make me a better football player, and I'm sure he'll pass that same advice to Cedric Benson.
Obviously you're not coming here as a free agent. What kind of sway did you feel like you had as far as where you ended up? And if so, what did you like about the Jets that drew you here?
THOMAS JONES: Just the fact that they're a team that you could tell just watching them on film. I watch a lot of film, and especially I watch the offense and the defense and they had guys that played hard. I met with Coach [Eric] Mangini yesterday, and he's a great guy. Definitely the type of coach you want to play for.
They have a lot of energy here in New York. Just coming out when we were getting ready to play the Jets and we came out for the game, just the energy of the stadium, the fans. I mean, it was an away game for us, but just the energy that I felt was something special. And I look forward to experiencing that and being on the team.
Mike Tannenbaum talked about how during the first four years of your career, I think the percentage was 40 percent of your team's plays. At this point, how young do your legs feel?
THOMAS JONES: The thing about any situation, I was at Arizona and I was sharing carries with Michael Pittman, so fortunately I didn't get beat up as the typical back would as far as getting a lot of carries. I go to Tampa Bay, and there's a running back who I'm sharing with there, too. So I've been blessed in my career to be around a lot of different running backs, learning a lot of different things about offenses and learning from those guys that I played with. Unfortunately, I'll be 29 years old this year. But I haven't had a lot of carries for a 29-yearold back.
I'm a workout warrior. I love working out. I love taking care of my body. I'm very in tune with my body and how I feel. So the way I feel right now, I could play for a long, long time. And I'm just happy that the Jets showed an interest in me to bring me here.
You're coming off a team that went to the Super Bowl. Why did you want to be traded out of Chicago?
THOMAS JONES: You know what, it wasn't really a situation where I wanted to be traded. It was a situation where I wanted to have an opportunity to do what I'm capable of doing, and that's going somewhere and providing leadership like I did in Chicago. Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson, we all were running backs there and we all made plays. But sometimes in the NFL, it's something that you have to adjust. And that's what I've done.
In my career, I was traded to Tampa Bay and I ended up loving it in Tampa Bay. And I signed with Chicago [and] ended up loving it there. I'm looking forward to having that same type of experience here in New York.
What if the Jets arrange a situation where you're splitting the carries with Leon Washington, who's a pretty talented young guy? Would you be happy in a timeshare situation?
THOMAS JONES: You know what, that's up to the coaches. I'm here to play football and make plays. That's why I signed here, is to help the offense be as productive as possible. Like I said, on the field and off the field. The coaches make all those decisions. Leon Washington is a great back. I watched him last year, and he made some great plays for the Jets [and] helped them get to the playoffs. I have a lot of respect for him and all the other running backs out there. I'm one of the guys on the team that just wants to provide leadership and make plays and help us win.
When you were watching the film on the Jets last year, what was your take on their offensive line, particularly Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson?
THOMAS JONES: I think their offensive line played really well. I know when we played them last year, they ran pretty well against us. We have a really good defense, and they came out and kind of hit us in the mouth a little bit early in the game and had some big runs.
So obviously their offensive line, anytime you make it to the playoffs you're doing something right - offensively and defensively and special teams. So I have a lot of confidence in their offensive line and just their offense, period.
What's it like for you to come in here and know you're going to play with a quarterback like Chad Pennington? What can he do for you to help you out, and are you looking forward to that?
THOMAS JONES: Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to that. I came out with Chad. We worked out together before the draft. I know him well. He's a great player. He's a resilient guy. He was the Comeback Player of the Year last year, which says a lot about his character. He's a smart guy. He can definitely put you in positive positions on offense. That's stuff I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to working with these guys on offense.
Would the Bears have made the Super Bowl without you?
THOMAS JONES: The Bears have great players on their offense and defense, so I was just one of the players on the team that contributed to them going to the Super Bowl. And that's just my approach on it. There's a game on the field, and it's not just one guy out there. Everyone on our offense and everyone on our defense and everyone on special teams, they're the reason why we made it to the Super Bowl.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|