Jersey numbers can be a tricky issue for some NFL teams. A star player will join a team from another club or from college and want to wear a particular jersey. If that number is taken, the newcomer sometimes negotiates to get the number, as was the case in New York when new quarterback Eli Manning agreed to pay for punter Jeff Feagles' family vacation to Florida so that Manning could wear same jersey number (10) he wore at Ole Miss. That's a practice reserved for star players.
Other players take the opposite approach, eschewing the jersey numbers of former stars for fear of dealing with unavoidable comparisons.
So imagine how Nathan Jones must have felt when he showed up at Valley Ranch for this weekend's rookie mini-camp and saw the jersey he was assigned. The 5-foot-10, 187-pound cornerback, plucked by Dallas in the seventh round out of Rutgers University, didn't have the number of just another player, or even that of a perennial Pro Bowler. Jones was assigned jersey No. 33 -- the same number worn by Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett.
"It really didn't matter to me," Jones said. "I wore No. 32 in college, and it was a great number for me. Now I need to try to make a name for myself, and it just happens that they gave me No. 33. I don't think much about who wore it before me -- I'm just here to practice and play and do whatever I can to make the squad."
|"I can play press coverage, I can cover slot receivers, I can do whatever they want me to do," Jones said. "But my first shot is going to be on special teams."|
With that in mind, Jones realizes that versatility will be his biggest asset in his effort to make the team.
"I can play press coverage, I can cover slot receivers, I can do whatever they want me to do," Jones said. "But my first shot is going to be on special teams -- that's going to be big in whether or not I make the team. Returning punts, returning kickoffs -- that's going to be my ticket in. Then they would start working me in to the defense."
Growing up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, Jones was in the heart of New York Giants country. And even though he wasn't a Giants fan, his family and most of his friends were. That culture made him fully aware of the man who this week became his new boss.
"Coach (Bill) Parcells is obviously real knowledgeable -- he's a legend," Jones said.
"Everybody here can learn so much from him. I'm hyped up to be able to be taught by him, so I'm going to listen very, very closely to everything he says. I mean, I would do that anyway, but he knows so much, and he's done so much, that you just have to take in everything he says."