Playing wide receiver at the University of Miami from 2004 through 2008, Jones caught a not-so-grand total of 13 passes. In January 2009, Jones recalls talking to the team chaplain at Miami about potentially moving to safety if he could get a shot in the NFL. The chaplain's advice: Do so only if asked by the team.
With such modest stats, Jones not surprisingly went undrafted. He spent about a month playing receiver with the Falcons before being released before training camp, and he was signed to Green Bay's practice squad as a receiver on Dec. 30.
"I tell you no lie," Jones said with a smile from his locker during the recent rookie camp. "Fast forward to January 2010, the Tuesday after we lost to Arizona, they asked me about moving to safety. I felt really comfortable. I've had visions and I just kept seeing safety. That was the day before, I prayed about it that night, they asked me the next day. I was like, ‘Umm, yeah!' My agent asked me about how I felt about the switch, and I was like, ‘I've been seeing myself playing this position.'"
These offseason workouts and the five weeks of OTA practices that start on Monday are important for all of the players who will be fighting for roster spots, playing time or starting roles. But it's hard to imagine these workouts being more important for any other player.
Jones has been working overtime with safety Darren Perry to get a grasp of the playbook and responsibilities, but nothing was quite like lining up for his first live snap at the rookie camp.
"There's some things you've got to learn on the run," he said. "You can go over things a hundred times in the classroom, but in the midst of a play, you can't teach no more. The time for preparation is gone. So, it's going real good. I've been able to feel my way, feel the game, feel how it is to play safety and feel the coverage. That, you can't teach. That has to come with experience. It's going good."
Jones said that the coaches at Miami broached the possibility of Jones playing both receiver and safety before his junior season. He declined, saying he wanted to be really good at one position rather than just kind of good at two. However, the idea of playing safety continued to stick in his mind.
"Everybody always said I'd be a good safety but I kind of just shrugged it off," Jones said. "It's like, you've been a reporter for 10 years and somebody's saying, ‘Hey, you should get in this field.' I've been doing this for so long. I can not just make that transition."
He is now.
Jones is listed as 6-foot-1. This reporter also is 6-foot-1 and backs up Jones' assessment that he's much closer to 6-foot-2.
"Make sure you write that," Jones said with a laugh when I mentioned listing him as 5-foot-11 instead.
Jones certainly has the look and raw tools of a safety. He's a rock-solid 212 pounds, runs a sub-4.4 40-yard dash and can squat 500 pounds. As a senior, he won Miami's awards for strength training and commitment and consistency.
At Miami, his niche was playing special teams, and excelled as a gunner on the punt team. As a junior, he helped force eight fair catches on punts. Paired with former and current teammate Sam Shields as gunners in 2008, only 17 of Miami's 69 punts were returned.
So, tackling isn't foreign to Jones. Now, it's learning the nuances of playing safety. Jones calls Perry a "very technical coach." Playing safety is more than just seeing the field. It's about recognizing what's going on and putting yourself — and your teammates — in the proper position.
"You can only get better at something" when starting from scratch, Jones said. "I'm definitely excited for the challenge and the responsibility. It's keeping me real focused. I can't go and relax because I feel like I'm behind. I've been doing a good job of keeping up with everything, and studying, studying, studying and learning the game."
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