Jones' example touches Ravens Tackle's steady way makes impression

September 05, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens defensive tackle James Jones doesn't say much, but his mere presence speaks volumes.

He seldom goes out, preferring the home and family life to the nightclub scene. He is a workaholic when it comes to charity events, a Christian firmly committed to his beliefs. The beard is always trimmed, the hair neatly groomed and Jones is articulate. When Jones is finished playing pro football, he would like to teach science and coach youth football.

As far as a number of Ravens are concerned, Jones, 28, is already teaching. Maybe the ultimate compliment came earlier in training camp when linemate Rob Burnett was asked to describe Jones.

"If a person doesn't like J. J., then they got a real problem," said Burnett.

The Ravens' coaching staff has been impressed with Jones. A year ago, he came to training camp late and out of shape after a one-year stint with the Denver Broncos.

This season, Jones, 6 feet 2, 290 pounds, was in camp on time and had his playing weight down. He also had one year to digest the team's new defensive system. That's a great combination for one of the team's best athletes.

Jones had two tackles in the team's first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, and is a major part of the dominating defensive line. The others starters -- tackle Tony Siragusa, ends Burnett and Michael McCrary -- may be a little more flashy; Jones gets his job done quietly.

"He is a low-key guy who practices every day, works hards and then goes home," said Ravens starting right guard Jeff Blackshear. "J. J. is not going to talk much. He is the total opposite of Goose. J. J. leads by example. He is a finesse player, a slippery guy who never stops running."

Jones, from Davenport, Iowa, is a quiet leader. There is no rah-rah or great outpouring of emotion, just substance. After Ravens management cut about a third of the team's players from the roster during the off-season, Jones started to emerge as a leader.

During rookie minicamp, it was Jones who took the rookies out to dinner. When defensive tackle Larry Webster was reinstated this season after being suspended for a year, one of the first players to extend a hand was Jones, who had never met Webster.

"I had heard a lot about him when we were in Cleveland," Webster said. "I heard he was the quiet type, a real hard worker. He has helped me so much, especially with the little things. If it means coming in watching film, or running on our day off, he's available."

"I remember during minicamp we were sitting around with nothing to do, no place to go," said rookie defensive tackle Leland Taylor. "He took all the rookies out to dinner. That made us feel good, like we were part of the team. There is nothing fake about J. J., absolutely no arrogance."

During the 1994 season when he played with the Cleveland Browns, Jones was one of the most active players in the community. He visited local YMCAs to talk to youth about the importance of staying in school. He was a celebrity waiter for American Lung Association benefits and participated in events to promote multiple sclerosis and diabetes research.

He plans to become active in Baltimore now that he and his wife, Son-Ja, and 14-month-old daughter, Morgan, have a home here.

"I've always felt you should help those in need," Jones said. "Being in the public eye, if you can help the cause, then promote that event. Some guys do it because they want to be seen. That's not part of me. Being a Christian, I believe that is what you're supposed to do."

Jones is just as active on the field, always one of the first players in line for drills. What separates him from other linemen is his ability to run and play all phases of the game.

McCrary was brought in to rush the passer. Burnett can play the run, as well as the pass. Siragusa is a run stopper and pocket pusher. Jones does it all.

"Without question, he is one of the best athletes on the team, maybe the best," said Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel.

Jones played every position on the defensive line, as well as inside linebacker at Northern Iowa. After the Browns selected him in the third round of the 1991 draft, they were so impressed with his versatility that he once was the lead blocker in the team's "Jumbo" offense and scored a touchdown on "Monday Night Football" on a 1-yard run on a play called Quick 30 Wedge.

"When I was in college, it wasn't unusual for me to start the game at defensive end and end up playing outside linebacker," Jones said.

Jones had 59 tackles last season.

"Last year, I spent a lot of time trying to get guys lined up in the right positions," said Jones. "This year I can focus on more of what I have to do. I've always been a pretty laid-back guy, but I'm also a firm believer that you get out of this game what you

put into it as long as you have some talent."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

When: 1 p.m., Sunday

Site: Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: Blacked out on local television; WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Bengals by 1 1/2

Tickets: About 6,800 remain

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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