Adam ”Pacman” Jones says his eagerness to play Sunday in Tennessee has nothing to do with what happened during his stormy three years as a Titan.
After a year away because of a neck injury, the Cincinnati Bengals cornerback and punt returner just wants to get on the field for an entire game.
The Bengals (5-2) will visit the place where Jones’ career started with such great promise and crashed so fast. He was the sixth overall pick in 2005 and earned a starting job as a rookie, but let his career quickly unravel with a series of arrests and suspensions.
Now 28, Jones has revived his career with the Bengals, who signed him last season after he’d been out of football for a year. The game on Sunday is a chance to show Tennessee (4-3) that he’s still around.
”I know people are like, `He can’t wait to get back down there and show off’ or this and that,” Jones said. ”But I’ve came to past with Tennessee. I have no regrets. I’m happy here in Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati is what I’m worried about. I could care less about Tennessee.”
His immediate concern is a sore hamstring that could keep him out of the game.
Jones signed a two-year deal with Cincinnati last year, getting a chance to revive his career. He injured a neck disc in October and needed surgery. He had another procedure over the summer, pushing back his return.
Jones finally got back on the field last Sunday in Seattle. The first time he touched the ball, he returned a punt 63 yards to set up a touchdown in a 34-12 win. He grabbed the right hamstring as he ran out of bounds on the return, then spent the rest of the game on the sideline.
He said the hamstring was at about 60 percent strength by midweek, leaving him questionable for the game. He worked out on Wednesday and Thursday but didn’t participate in practice.
”I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize myself, first of all, or what we’re trying to do as a team,” Jones said. ”If it’s better for me to sit out this week and wait till next week to play for myself and my team, that’s what I would do.
”Like I said, we’ll make decisions accordingly. Right now, I don’t know.”
The Bengals will try to extend their winning streak to five games, something they haven’t done since their Super Bowl season of 1988. After that comes a stretch that will define their season – games against Pittsburgh, at Baltimore, against Cleveland and in Pittsburgh.
Jones wants to be part of the second-half push. He was encouraged to make an impact the first time he touched the ball, then extremely discouraged that he’d get only the one play because he got hurt.
”So my mind is racing every which-a-way now,” he said. ”But these guys are doing good to keep me positive and keep my spirits up, so just take it one day at a time and let it play itself out.”
Jones said it took him a couple of years to come to peace with what happened in Tennessee, where he was suspended by the team for one game in 2006 and by the NFL for the entire 2007 season because of his arrests. He was traded to Dallas in 2008 and suspended again. Jones was out of football in 2009.
He’s had one arrest while with the Bengals. He pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest for a disturbance at a downtown bar last July. He’s scheduled for trial on Nov. 17.
Jones is one of eight NFL players subject to discipline from the league for incidents that occurred during the lockout this summer. Teammate Cedric Benson missed the win in Seattle while serving a one-game suspension for his offseason arrest in Texas.
”My experience with Adam has been excellent,” coach Marvin Lewis said. ”I’m very close with (former Titans coach) Jeff Fisher, really talked with Jeff a lot about Adam before when Adam was still a Titan and once we decided to bring him here. I think he’s grown up a lot. I feel he knows he’s made a lot of error in judgment. It’s unfortunate that a guy could go into college and spend three years on a college campus and not learn some of the things really they should learn.
”But hopefully he’s learned those lessons now. He’s been a great teammate to the guys here, very supportive of everyone.”
Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who moved into a starting role during Jones’ season-long suspension in 2007, is looking forward to seeing him again.
”You always hope he plays,” Finnegan said. ”You never want a guy to be hurt, and he’s just so electrifying in the punt return, what he did there. I want to see him out there. I want to be able to talk to him, see how he’s doing.”
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville contributed to this report.