This weekend the New York Times had a great profile on the constantly moving Thomas Jones. After a week in which we saw why former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson still doesn’t “get it”, we get a view into how Jones is the anti-LJ.
Jones never embraced a more modern approach, opened a Twitter account, choreographed a touchdown dance or campaigned for Pro Bowl votes. He loved football for simple, almost childlike, reasons: the smell of fresh-cut grass, the feel of new cleats, the first touchdown scored each season.
He led the way his parents led, by working out when teammates scattered on Friday afternoons, by returning to the facility at night to watch film. He gave stirring pregame speeches, like the one he gave last season before the Jets played Indianapolis for the A.F.C. championship, when tears streamed down his cheeks.
In three seasons with the Jets, the play that defined Jones came against San Diego last season in the playoffs. Ahead, 17-14, late in the fourth quarter, the Jets faced a fourth-and-1. Handoff, 2-yard gain, game over — the play was classic Jones, far from flashy, but steeped in significance. The people who matter, Jones said, understood that.
Last season, Jones solidified his status as a leader in the Jets’ locker room. He finished third in the N.F.L. in rushing yards. His reward? Another pink slip.
Obvious factors included his age (Jones turns 32 in August) and the emergence of the rookie Shonn Greene during the playoffs. But for Jones, it felt familiar.
“People don’t understand me,” Jones said. “They don’t see me too much. They don’t know how to take me. They think I’m a serious person, that I don’t let them in.”
He laughed, then continued: “Really, I’m just a terrible celebrity. That’s it.”
It really is amazing how different Jones is from LJ. After dealing with problem after problem with the troublesome Johnson, it should be a breath of fresh air having a veteran running back on the roster that actually wants to lead by example. Last year all LJ wanted was to get paid and then scurry out of Kansas City as soon as he could to go party in Vegas instead of practice with his teammates.
No matter how many carries he gets playing behind Jamaal Charles, I have no doubt that Jones will continue to be the hardest working player in Kansas City. That’s the type of attitude that will rub off on the rest of the roster, putting the Chiefs is a position to take a much needed step forward in Todd Haley’s second season.