Jones Eager To Pitch In When Needed
In the NFL, one team’s trash is often another team’s treasure.
That has been the case with veteran tailback Julius Jones, who was tossed out by the Seattle Seahawks last month before finding new life with the New Orleans Saints.
Jones, 29, has provided a great spark for New Orleans’ injury-riddled backfield in a part-time role, highlighted by his 54-yard run at the start of last week’s 34-3 rout at Carolina.
And this week, Jones admitted that he’ll be a little extra amped to face the Seahawks on Sunday at the Superdome and show them up close what they’re missing.
“They know (what they’re missing), ” said Jones, who led the Seahawks in rushing the past two seasons with 698 yards in 2008 and 663 in ’09 before being phased out this summer. “There’s a couple people up there that know what I can do, and those people were sad to see me go. But for the other ones, I definitely plan on showing them what I can do, what I have been doing — and we’ll leave it at that.”
Jones insisted that he doesn’t have “any ill feelings” toward anyone in Seattle — that he understood he might get replaced when the team overhauled its front office and coaching staff this offseason, bringing in Pete Carroll to run the show.
He was disappointed when he lost his starting job late in training camp, then when he was released after four weeks when the Seahawks traded for veteran tailback Marshawn Lynch. But the former Dallas Cowboys standout said he’s happy with how things worked out, even though he knows his role might decrease now that Saints tailback Reggie Bush is returning from a broken fibula.
“This has definitely been a tough year for me, but I’m here now. That’s in the past, and I’m just trying to make a future now for however long I can, ” said Jones, who is hoping he’s made enough of an impression to keep a role with the team when Bush and injured starter Pierre Thomas return to the lineup.
“All I can do is do what the coaches ask me to do, and whenever they give me an opportunity, make the best of it, ” Jones added. “And so far I think I’ve done that, and I’ll continue to do that for as long as I can.”
Jones, 5 feet 10, 208 pounds, had his most impressive performance against the Panthers, carrying the ball six times for 68 yards — though teammates ribbed him for not reaching the end zone on that breakaway run to start the game.
“I was joking with the guys. I’m more of the 60-meter guy, indoor track guy, ” Jones said. “I’ll leave those 100-yard dashes to Reggie and those guys.”
Jones has shown that he still has got quite a bit of burst in those legs. He also turned heads with an 11-yard swing pass early in the Saints’ win over Pittsburgh two weeks ago, when he made Steelers safety Troy Polamalu miss him in the open field. He also caught a 13-yard pass and broke off an 11-yard run in that game.
“He’s given us some juice. That’s been important, ” said Saints Coach Sean Payton, who knew Jones well from the two years they spent together with the Cowboys in 2004 and 2005, when Jones emerged as a breakout young star.
Payton said he reminded Jones before the game against the Panthers of a past performance he had at Carolina, when he ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Those memories let Payton know what Jones was capable of, but Payton admitted that the Saints weren’t sure if he still had so much left in the tank.
“You don’t know until he gets here, ” Payton said. “But I think when you really look at the last year and a half, he hasn’t had as much mileage. So he’s healthy. I think he feels like he’s got a little juice, and you’ve seen it in practice. So when he hit that run (at Carolina), it wasn’t a surprise because we’ve seen it in practice.”
Jones, who will also get to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, is 3 rushing yards shy of 5,000 in his career, and he’s 9 receiving yards shy of 1,000.
Like any NFL tailback pushing 30, Jones is no longer in his prime.
After rushing for 3,484 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first four seasons in Dallas, he started to lose carries to another young breakout star — Marion Barber –”" toward the end of the 2007 season. Then after he signed a four-year $12 million deal with Seattle, he was more solid than spectacular during his two years as the Seahawks’ featured runner.
The Seahawks began leaning toward younger tailback Justin Forsett this offseason. They also brought in veteran change-of-pace back Leon Washington in free agency. Jones saw some brief playing time in Weeks 1 and 2, but the team de-activated him on game day in the week before they made the Lynch trade.
Reportedly, Carroll raved about Jones’ professionalism and dedication to the team when he addressed Seattle’s players after Jones was released, but he said the move was made to make the team better.
“I was in a situation where they wanted to go a different way; I did everything I could, everything they asked me to do — and more, ” Jones said. “It was just a weird situation. I felt like when Coach (Jim) Mora left, it wouldn’t be too long before I was out of there either. But that’s the name of the game, man. Sometimes we don’t have any control over the situation.”
Jones did have some choice in where he’d go next, though. And he pounced on the Saints’ invitation for a tryout before exploring any other opportunities that might be available to him.
“This is where I wanted to come. It’s a winning organization. There’s good people here, ” Jones added. “This is my seventh year in the league. I’ve been out in Seattle, you know, we won nine games in two years. That’s not good. I wanted to come somewhere with a great chance of winning and going to the playoffs and just being a part of a winning organization, and this is it.”
Quarterback Drew Brees said that sentiment has been noticeable in Jones, whom he described as “a great presence in the locker room.”
“You can see that in his attitude and his approach and how excited he is on game day just to be a part of something pretty unique, ” Brees said. “It makes you excited, and it makes you want to work hard and contribute however you can. And as you can see (against the Panthers), we used him quite a bit.
“I think his contributions have been really, really good. A veteran guy who works hard and knows how things need to be done, and so I hope he’s a part of it if that’s the way it is to be.”