At 31 years old,
It was Jones’ second straight All-Pro season and put an exclamation point on a stellar three-year run with the Jets.
“He’s one of my favorite guys,” Ryan said on Wednesday.
But the NFL is a business and sometimes “favorite” players don’t stay employed.
Jones was due a $3 million roster bonus on top of a $2.8 million base salary and third-round draft pick Shonn Greene appeared ready to take on a larger offensive role. The circumstances prompted the Jets to move on after Jones had turned in back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Kansas City signed Jones shortly after his release during the 2010 offseason.
“I wasn’t surprised because I knew it was possibly going to happen before the season started and that’s why I didn’t go to (New York’s) offseason program,” Jones said. “I’m enjoying being out in Kansas City around my team and teammates, and the city.”
The decision to part ways with Jones didn’t come easy. In addition to releasing one of its most productive players, New York was also losing one of its most respected clubhouse leaders.
Jets players still reference Jones’ leadership today.
“He’s one of the best locker room guys that you could ever ask for,” said Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who played with Jones as a rookie starter in 2009. “Anytime I hear his name I think about how much of a hard worker he was and how he was so encouraging for a young quarterback. His actions have stuck with me today.
“He’s one of the toughest players I’ve even been around he’s really a competitor. He wanted the ball in his hands and wanted to have an effect on the game. He didn’t mind getting hit and he didn’t mind blocking. He was really a joy to play with.”
The Jets front office felt the same way.
When Jones signed a free agent deal with the Chiefs, the Jets took out a full-page ad in the Kansas City Star to thank Jones for his three years of leadership.
The ad read: “A person who embodies TOUGHNESS, DEDICATION and LEADERSHIP. Thanks TJ for three great seasons.” – Woody Johnson, Coach Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and the New York Jets.
Jones’ role has changed significantly since he last played in New York.
With just 325 rushing yards through 12 games, Jones isn’t likely to receive the 20-plus carries he often saw as New York’s primary runner. He’s yet to record a rushing touchdown this season and his single-game rushing high is just 55 yards.
Even so, Jones’ locker room reach hasn’t changed. He’s been instrumental in mentoring
The jersey may be different and the career may be reaching its final stages, but Jones will still find a way to factor into Sunday’s game.
“The most important thing is what guys say about you when you leave,” Jones said. “Despite the fact that I still wanted to play in New York and I didn’t want to leave, I loved playing with my teammates there just like I loved playing with my teammates in Chicago. I just understood that was part of the business.
“For guys to still think that much of me and still have that much respect for me means a whole lot.”
Jones can also make a little bit of history on his return trip as well.
If he can rush for at least 12 yards against the Jets, Jones will move past Eddie George (10,441 rushing yards) and Tiki Barber (10,449 rushing yards) on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. Jones currently ranks 24th all-time with 10,438 career rushing yards.
“That’d be really special for me,” Jones said. “Especially playing with Tiki in college and watching him in the pros, kind of growing up admiring him, from Virginia and playing with him at Virginia, so coming back to New York and hopefully being able to do that as well. That’s something special. “
Orton Held Back
“He’s still pretty sore, but we’re going to take him day-by-day,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley said.
Earlier this week, Haley mentioned that
“Tamba is a warrior, a true warrior and I think sometimes you take it for granted the punishment he and others put on his body,” Haley said. “You take it for granted because there he is on Wednesday again out there stretching and fighting through the agony and pain, but then at practice the whistle blows and he is going full speed again. No matter how beat up he is during the week, when the whistle blows on Sunday he is something else.”
Chiefs Injury Report
QB Kyle Orton – Limited Practice (Right Finger)
Jets Injury Report
New York listed a whopping 16 players on its injury report.
One of the biggest question marks heading into Sunday’s game is the status of RB Joe McKnight, who injured his elbow in last week’s game at Washington. An MRI showed no tears in McKnight’s elbow; only a hyperextension
Full Practice: OL Vlad Ducasse (Knee), RB Shonn Greene (Rib), WR Jeremy Kerley (Knee), OL Nick Mangold (Ankle), LB Calvin Pace (Groin), LS Tanner Purdum (Lower Back), OL Matt Slauson (Knee), RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Knee), DL Mo Wilkerson (Shoulder)
Limited Practice: DL Marcus Dixon (Hip), LB David Harris (Ankle), RB Joe McKnight (Elbow)
Did Not Practice: DL Mike DeVito (Knee), DB Ellis Lankster (Lower Back), OL Brandon Moore (Hip)