Published May 19, 2010
CINCINNATI (AP) — Adam "Pacman" Jones didn't even try to put a positive spin on his year away from football.
The cornerback who entered the NFL with such promise in 2005 spent all last season trying to get back into the game, looking for someone — anyone — who would give him another chance. For a while, it looked like that chance might not come.
"It was miserable," he said.
Miserable enough to make him learn anything?
The 26-year-old Jones said Wednesday that he has changed his lifestyle and reordered his priorities in the past year, the result of much soul-searching while he was outside the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals gave him a two-year deal that represents what could be his final chance to prove it.
During his first interview session in town Wednesday, Jones told reporters that he no longer hangs around with the same people who helped him get into trouble after he was Tennessee's first-round pick in 2005. He recognized that a lot of things had to change.
"Of course, you change as you grow," Jones said. "Like I said, it ain't overnight. I'm 26 years old now, so I can't do the same things I was doing at 21, or I'm going to be dead or in jail. I know what my passion is, and my passion is football. I know what I've got to do to keep playing football, and that's what I'm working on doing."
Jones signed last week, but chose to stick with a 58-second statement when he got to town for his first workout. He took questions after a voluntary practice Wednesday, answering all but one.
He moved into a wooden locker at one end of the football-shaped room, mixed in among defensive linemen. Receiver Chris Henry's former locker was across the room — Jones faced in that direction while he took questions for 14 minutes.
Henry and Jones were teammates at West Virginia and kept in touch. They became the NFL's poster boys for misconduct, both getting arrested and suspended repeatedly. Commissioner Roger Goodell toughened the NFL's conduct policy largely because of their misdeeds.
The Bengals released Henry after his fifth arrest in 2008, leaving him out of football — just like Jones. Henry used it as a chance to make changes, and got a two-year deal with the Bengals as a final chance. He died in a fall from a truck last December during a dispute with his fiancee.
During their tough times, Jones — six arrests, a dozen incidents involving police intervention — kept in touch with Henry. Jones got emotional when asked about Henry and declined to talk about what he learned from Henry's life, the only subject he wouldn't address.
"Chris was a great friend of mine," he said. "It would depend on what situation you're talking about. Chris touched a part of me. I really don't like to talk about it."
There's enough to discuss in his own life.
Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season for his run of trouble. The Cowboys took a chance on him, but he got suspended for six games in 2008 after getting into an alcohol-related scuffle with a team-provided bodyguard. He didn't have an interception that season, and the Cowboys got rid of him.
No one else wanted him.
"I did a lot of soul-searching," Jones said. "That's why I'm right here talking to you all. I did a lot of soul-searching, I did a lot of corrections, everything. Right now, everything is pretty good — family-wise, spiritual, mentally. I'm at ease right now, I should say."
He's still recovering from the year away from football. Jones said he's rusty on the field, where he finds himself off by a little bit in coverages. It was evident during practice on Wednesday that his quickness hasn't suffered.
The Bengals have one of the NFL's best cornerback tandems in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Jones will get a chance to get on the field on passing downs as an extra cornerback. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is pleased with how Jones looks on the field.
"There's a long way to go," Zimmer said. "He's making progress. I'm more concerned that he's listening, trying hard, that he's doing things the way we want him to do it. He's trying to understand the coverages and the techniques and how we want to play. To me, that is much more important than anything else right now.
"So far, so good. No issues whatsoever with him. He sits in the front row in the meeting, listens to me. He's one of the guys right now."
Quarterback Carson Palmer befriended Henry during his troubles and has already spent time trying to get to know Jones.
"I like him a lot," Palmer said. "Playing here, you learn to give guys the benefit of a doubt, and there are guys here that have been through a lot of things. A lot of things have been said by people who don't know that individual.
"He is who he is and has tried to learn right away and compete. Everything else that has been in the past — I'm not going to let that make my mind up for me."