Arthur Jones has been a helpless observer for too long.
The Indianapolis Colts’ 6-foot-3, 337-pound defensive tackle can’t wait to return to the lineup for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.
He’s watched seven of the last eight games, sidelined by a right high ankle sprain. The one game he played during that stretch was at Pittsburgh, and he re-aggravated the injury.
“I felt like I was ready to go,” he said Thursday of the Steelers game on Oct. 26. “Me being stubborn sometimes, being a competitor, I want to be out there with my brothers. Maybe I made the wrong decision and came back too early.
“But I feel good now. I feel better than I did before. High ankles are tricky. It’s definitely frustrating. I think sometimes they say it’s better to break it. I feel confident and comfortable. I’ve been working my butt off to get back. It’s time to get this thing in championship form.”
The Colts invested $33 million, including $16 million guaranteed, over five years in Jones last offseason. He’s expected to be a defensive fixture for a long time in the 3-4 scheme.
But Sunday night’s 42-20 home loss to New England showed the Colts’ run defense isn’t the same without him. First-year running back Jonas Gray had a career-high 201 yards and four TDs. The Patriots finished with 244 yards rushing on 45 carries, both season highs for a Colts run defense that dropped from ninth to 17th at 112.7 yards allowed per game.
“That game is over with,” Jones said. “I don’t want to talk about that game anymore. It was ugly. You guys saw it, and I don’t want to comment on it. It’s Jacksonville. It’s all about Jacksonville. It’s the most important game, like the coaches say, because it’s the next one.
“We’re ready to go. We’re ready to go. We got out there Monday and washed that stink off. Now we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky sound confident Jones is ready to make some noise this time.
“Yeah, which will be good,” Pagano said Friday. “Get him back in there, get him rolling and help us get this thing going back in the right direction.”
The Colts (6-4) haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown when Jones has been on the field for 104 snaps this season (15.9 percent of the defensive plays).
Manusky was asked Thursday what Jones brings to the equation.
“Well I think a bigger body frame guy that can plug up the run game, give you a little bit something on pass rush on third downs, a guy that has some ability to get after the quarterback and that’s what we’re looking for,” the coordinator said.
Jones won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens. He knows what it takes to win. And he’s confident the Colts have what it takes. He also assures that ankle won’t hold him back.
“Absolutely, I definitely have fresh legs,” he said. “There’s nothing like football conditioning when you run around and you actually have that physical contact. It’s totally different from doing sprints, riding the bike and swimming. It’s totally different. My legs should be the freshest out there, but I’m going to keep working, keep running to the ball and just give the fans what they ask for. Just give it up for my teammates and whatever role it is, I’m going to play.
“Ricky (Jean Francois) has done a fantastic job this year, Cory (Redding), all those guys. Me coming back is just going to be a great addition to that. I’m really excited to be out there with my brothers. I keep saying, I’m just so happy. Sometimes you sit around the locker room feeling sorry for yourself and I had to remind myself, talking to my brothers, you can’t feel sorry for yourself because no one else will. When your number’s called, you’ve got to be ready to go, and I’m ready to go.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.