|Fresh start for Pacman and Tank with Cowboys|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 01 September 2008 14:35|
Freshly displayed above the locker where Jones reclined into a pile of clothes were several pictures of his 2-year-old daughter. Johnson, meanwhile, talked about plans for an entertainment center in the empty cubicle now between them after final roster cuts.
At the start of last season, neither was playing for the Cowboys - or any other team. Both were serving NFL suspensions.
Jones didn't even find out for sure until last week that he would be cleared by commissioner Roger Goodell to play this season. He is already finding it hard to control his emotions as he gets ready for Sunday's season opener at Cleveland, his first NFL game since Dec. 31, 2006, when he was still with Tennessee.
``I don't want to get too over-hyped, but Sunday I'll be ready,'' Jones said. ``I'm just trying to not get too riled up. Reading a couple of books every now and then helps me out a little bit.''
The Titans traded Jones, their 2005 first-round pick, in April while the cornerback-kick returner was still suspended because of an accumulation of arrests and legal problems while with Tennessee.
When Jason Ferguson of the Cowboys was lost to injury after last year's opener, the 305-pound Johnson was signed off waivers from Chicago even though he still had to serve his suspension. Johnson did get to play the second half of the season for the Cowboys, and his gregarious spirit has become much more evident now that he is settled with the team.
Johnson is also sporting a new jersey number, switching to No. 95 this week after wearing No. 66 last season and throughout training camp.
``Nine-to-five is just like all day. Nine-to-five is how I work. I love the number,'' Johnson said. ``I was comfortable in 66, but once a 90-number got free, I wanted to just go ahead and jump on it because I don't want to be the ugly one on the line.''
In the preseason, ``Pacman'' played the first three games, the last starting at left cornerback in place of Terence Newman, the injured Pro Bowl selection who is back at practice and expected to play against the Browns.
Jones doesn't know if he will start - ``They ain't telling me nothing,'' he said - but he will be prominent on passing downs and special teams. Jones' only punt returns in the preseason were for 18 and 24 yards.
So what does Jones look forward to most?
``Probably the punt return more. I would like to take the first return back,'' Jones said, making sure to clarify that wasn't any kind of guarantee. ``I said I would like to take the first one back. We'll see how it goes, man. I'm eager to get back out there.''
Coach Wade Phillips said Monday that Jones will likely be used on kickoff returns as well. He wouldn't say if there was a chance of Jones being used offensively to help bolster the injury-plagued receiving unit.
Still, Phillips said Jones has made significant progress in the two months since he was cleared by Goodell to practice and play in preseason games with the Cowboys. The commissioner waited until last week to rule on the regular season.
``I think Adam Jones will probably get better and better as he goes. He just hasn't played in a long time. He does have some real natural ability,'' Phillips said. ``He's not too far away.''
Jay Ratliff is still the starting nose tackle, having first got that job after Ferguson was hurt last year. But Johnson usually rotates into games quickly; he had a sack on the second play of one preseason game that he didn't start.
Standing in the corner of the locker room surrounded by reporters - talking for a few minutes before moving aside and letting Jones have his turn answering questions - Johnson talked about the exciting feeling surrounding the team now that it's finally time to start the season.
``As a team collectively, we're ready, we're fresh,'' Johnson said. ``Guys are a little more excited. Even our walkthrough was very high tempo. You can tell the guys are anxious to get the season under way.''
Notes: Cory Procter, a fourth-year player who is also the backup center, will start the opener at left guard in place of injured Kyle Kosier. Montrae Holland, a 16-game starter for Denver acquired in a trade last week, is still trying to learn the Cowboys' playbook. ... WR Isaiah Stanback (separated shoulder) practiced Monday. He might be able to play against the Browns.