Ankle injuries have limited the seventh-year pro to just three starts in two seasons with the Colts. He missed all of last season when torn ligaments in his left ankle required surgery after the third preseason game. It's fair to say the Colts would like to count on Jones returning to the starting lineup and being the disruptive force they envisioned when the free agent signed a five-year, $33-million contract including $10 million guaranteed in 2014.
“Hey, it’s football,” Jones said. “Things happen. When you play hard and you run to the ball and you’re in the trenches chop blocks and things happen. I’m happy that (the NFL) got rid of (chop blocks) and I’ll be ready to go. Don’t worry about me.”
The Colts have reason to be concerned about their investment. Jones recently agreed to restructure his contract, reducing his base salary to $2.5 million, a savings of $2 million that he can earn back through roster bonuses and performance incentives this season.
Pagano was asked if the timetable for Jones to return is training camp in late July.
“Yeah, we’re hopeful for that,” the coach said.
Asked about that timetable not being a certainty, he said, “I’m just waiting to hear from the docs.”
Pagano conceded the obvious about what the two years have been like for him.
“Frustrating for him and for all of us,” the coach said.
The absence, he said, isn’t a topic that needs to be discussed.
“I don’t think anybody needs to mention a word,” Pagano said. “I think there’s probably enough out there. He understands that he’s missed some time. Injuries happen and all that stuff. It’s not something that any of us anticipated.
“He’s got all the talent in the world. We know that and now he’s got to get healthy. He’s got to get back on the field and be the player that he can be, he knows that he can be and we know that he can be.”
Pagano said a healthy Jones is a solid run stopper and can be “as disruptive a three technique as there is in the league.”
An upbeat Jones started his locker-room interview with a joke, saying he mistakenly cut off part of his mustache recently so he was feeling “terrible” and waiting for it to grow back. He knew what reporters wanted to ask about.
“We’re feeling good,” he said. “We’re getting ready to go.”
Jones declined to discuss the timetable or specifics on what he’s able to do during offseason training activities. He assured he’s doing whatever rehabilitation work the Colts expect.
To describe him as eager would be an understatement.
“I don’t think I need to describe it,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of adversity this offseason. When the time is ready to go I’ll be ready to go when the time comes. I’m excited. I’m excited to still be wearing the blue and white and I can’t wait.
“Yeah, it’s definitely tested me. It definitely has but I have a great support system: Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, some of the veterans, guys who have been through it before. Those guys have been awesome. I’m sticking to the plan, my blinders are on, I’m working hard and I can’t wait to go.”
The physical preparation aside, perhaps the most important part of the process is to not rush the recovery.
“I’m staying patient with the whole thing and taking it one step at a time,” he said. “It’s a process like anything and when my time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.