Published November 20, 2014
CINCINNATI (AP) — Cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones resumed his troubled football career with the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday, showing he's in good enough shape to keep up. All other questions about his comeback have to wait.
Jones fully participated in a voluntary team workout with coaches, going through defensive drills and getting onto the field for some 7-on-7 plays. It was his first chance to meet new teammates since he agreed to a two-year deal last week.
Then, he thanked God, owner Mike Brown, coaches and the city for giving him a chance after he was out of football for a year. Jones spoke for 58 seconds, then left an interview room without taking questions.
"To gain you guys' trust is not going to come overnight," Jones said. "It's going to take time."
The overriding question is always the same for Jones: Can he stay out of trouble?
The former first-round draft pick couldn't do that at Tennessee, where he got suspended for the entire 2007 season. Dallas was next to give him another chance, but he got into trouble there, too. Jones drew a six-game suspension in 2008 for an alcohol-related scuffle with a team-provided bodyguard.
The Cowboys gave up on him and he was out of football last year, weighed down by his six arrests and a dozen instances that involved police intervention.
He's getting perhaps his final chance with the Bengals, who don't seem to mind being the NFL version of a halfway house. Cincinnati has a fondness for players willing to sign minimal contracts in hopes of resurrecting checkered careers.
"A lot guys in our locker room have been in situations like that," safety Chris Crocker said. "So when we have a guy who comes in who has a troubled past, we embrace him and make him feel welcomed. That's the one thing about why guys have come here and had success, because they don't think everybody in the locker room is kind of looking at them and waiting for them to mess up."
Brown overruled his head coach and decided to give receiver Chris Henry — who attended West Virginia along with Jones — a two-year deal following his fifth arrest. Henry died in a fall from a truck last December.
In the last two years, the Bengals also have given running backs Cedric Benson and Larry Johnson and receiver Matt Jones a chance to extend careers undercut by off-the-field issues. Benson did so well that he got a contract extension. Johnson stayed out of trouble and moved on. Matt Jones was signed in the offseason after sitting out last year as well.
"In the past, we were like the Betty Ford clinic and just rehabbing guys," Crocker said. "When you have your back up against the wall, you really have to (say) hey, this is your last stop. You're not going to get many more opportunities, if any."
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer suggested taking a look at Jones when the Bengals' defensive secondary had some injuries last season. The club decided to stick with its reserves, and ended up winning the AFC North.
Coach Marvin Lewis did some research on Jones, and the club gave him a tryout in February. The cornerback wasn't in shape, but the Bengals offered the chance to come back and work out again if he got in condition.
They worked him out again last week and were happy with what they saw. The Bengals have one of the best cornerback tandems in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Jones is competing for a backup role. He'll also get a chance to return kicks.
"We know the downside of it, but I trust that he will resurrect his career with this opportunity," Lewis said.
Jones kept up with the other cornerbacks during defensive drills on Tuesday.
"I think I still have the skill set that I've had that made me a high draft choice," Jones said. "I know I have a ton, ton of work to do."
Lewis said the Bengals knew they would get criticized for bringing in another player with a troubled past.
"Unfortunately, people will always chime in with what they think and feel," Lewis said. "There's no turning people on that, other than the fact that things have worked out. We heard the same thing with Cedric. We heard the same thing with Larry Johnson and so forth. They've made the turn.
"In this guy's case, the same thing is imminent. I'm excited about that for him. What he has in his life ahead is big."