Pacman giving rookie symposium a second try
JUN 13, 2012 7:18p ET
It's that he volunteered to do it.
It's not a stretch to say Jones could be the poster boy for the symposium, which brings all drafted rookies to a central location for three days of life lessons and expert advice on everything from handling money to the league's substance abuse program to post-career preparation.
The NFL considers it vital. Jones, who served a year-long suspension just two years after the Tennessee Titans made him the No. 6 pick in the 2005 draft -- therefore making him a very rich young man -- has come to agree with the league.
"It's very important," Jones said. "Self-claim, that's what I say. I wish back when I was a rookie I would have taken five or 10 minutes to listen to what people had to say.
"Me going and being a part of it, it's going to be good. I'm excited about it. I want nobody to go through the same things I went through."
Jones signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 and made it a month into that season before being hit with a six-game suspension for an alcohol-related incident at a Dallas hotel. That marked his 13th run-in with police since being drafted; he was arrested six times, though he was never convicted.
Jones signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and made a cameo as a professional wrestler before signing with the Bengals early in 2010.
Most of Jones' incidents took place in or around night clubs or strip clubs, and most happened when Jones was with a large group of people. The full-season suspension from the NFL came after Jones was involved in a fight outside a Las Vegas strip club that led to a security guard being shot and paralyzed.
A guy whose name became synonymous with the term "make it rain" now wants to make the NFL's newest future stars listen.
"When you're in this league, you're a business," Jones said. "The camera's on you. You're responsible for everything. Check your financial advisors. Check that people have your best interests in mind.
"It's little things, man. You don't have to run with the crowd. Don't let everybody else come join the bandwagon."
Jones said during the Bengals minicamp this week that he's "in a good place," both physically and mentally, as he works past hamstring problems that limited him during the second half of last season. He continues to try to fulfill his goal to be "one of the very best in the game."
He's likely the best player currently in the league to be addressing the rookies at the symposium, but that doesn't seem to bother him a bit.
"There's a lot of inner-city kids that don't have moms and dads and once they get money they don't think about investments or anything like that," Jones said. "When I first got my money I wasn't thinking about no investments -- not a damn one of 'em."
"You live and you learn. I ain't got no regrets and no complaints."
Jones said the idea to play at least a bit part in the annual symposium -- which didn't happen last year due to the NFL lockout -- was his, and that officials at the league office have been in communication with Jones and his agent to finalize the details. This year's symposium will take place in two parts, one for AFC rookies and one for NFC rookies, from June 24-30. The players will be housed near Cleveland, and the event will include a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Jones showed up at the 2005 rookie symposium, held at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., wearing a shiny necklace with a gold-plated charm in the mold of the video game character Pacman. There were times during his stay when he simply went to his hotel room instead of attending mandatory sessions.
Now he's going to be one of the people sitting at the front of the room.
"I always took football seriously," Jones said. "Going to the symposium, though, no. I didn't take that seriously. I just didn't. ... I remember a little of it."
Volunteering to speak at the symposium, Bengals director of player relations Eric Ball said, is another step in Jones' personal rebound from the demons that slowed -- and came to define -- the early part of his career.
"That he's doing this says a lot, not just about where he's come from, but where he wants to be," Ball said. "I've seen him personally grow. He wants to give back and share his experiences.
"He's wide open about all of it. He's never met a stranger. He really doesn't want people to go down the path he had to. And he's not only doing that, he's been involved with some other things. He volunteered for a program here (in Cincinnati) with the chief of police that allowed him to talk to some at-risk kids."
Ball, who will escort the current crop of Bengals rookies to the symposium, is anxious to hear what Jones has to say.
"I won't say that he has come full-circle, but he's come a long way," Ball said. "He's an example of a guy that, at the symposium, he's who they're talking about. What he's done, that's what the NFL wants everybody to avoid.
"He's embracing it. He wants to make a difference."
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