Ravens get bonus in T. Jones' hands

Tight end making most of chances at spotlight

Pro Football

November 05, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

At least once, maybe twice, or, if he's lucky, three times a game, Ravens tight end Terry Jones will get a chance to do something special with the ball.

Based on the past four games, including a 17-yard reception in the second quarter of Sunday's 24-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the opportunities have not been lost.

Besides the 17-yarder, Jones has one for 15 yards, another for 17 yards and a third for a 5-yard touchdown during that stretch.

He has started six games alongside Todd Heap in the Ravens' two-tight-end set this season - the same number he started all last year - and has played roughly half of the total snaps.

"Coach [Brian] Billick said at the beginning of the year I'm going to get two or three shots a game, and I've got to make the most out of it," said Jones, who has at least one reception in all but one game this season.

"Every time they throw me the ball, I've got to make the most out of it because my opportunities are limited.

"Todd Heap is one of our featured receivers, so he's going to get a lot of opportunities to catch the ball, and my opportunities are not as much as his."

Nor are they likely to be. Jones, regarded as one of the 2002 draft's better blockers, was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round to do just that, and he deserves a good portion of the credit for running back Jamal Lewis' 1,045-yard season.

But when teams double- and triple-cover Heap, the Ravens have found another use for Jones in one-on-one matchups with linebackers, a battle he is winning more times than not.

That has got the coaching staff growing more confident in a player who had just 12 receptions in 11 games as a senior at Alabama.

"When we drafted him, [blocking] is the thing we saw," tight ends coach Wade Harman said. "They didn't throw very much to him down there. But as he's got into some things, he's really a better route runner than I anticipated just based off his film. He's developed that part of his game."

And allowed the Ravens to stay in a two-tight-end, two-running-back, one-receiver set as much as any team in the league.

Depending on how you choose to view it, the Ravens' use of Jones is either a vote of confidence in him or something of an indictment of the wide receivers.

"The amount of two-tight-end packages we run kind of surprises me," Jones said. "But going into everything I do, I want to be the best at it.

"When I got drafted into the league, I wanted to be one of the best tight ends. I want to be one of the best tight ends in Ravens history. I'm going to get a chance to learn from Todd, and John Jones has taken me under his wing."

Those words came from someone who didn't take up football until his junior year of high school, then abandoned the game his senior year.

Back then, in Jones' hometown of Tuscaloosa Ala., he and his family fancied him more as a basketball player, and they also did not want him to compete with the shadow cast by his well-known father.

Terry Jones Sr. was a two-way star - center and defensive tackle - at the University of Alabama who played with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. Jones Sr. also played eight years in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

"I told him football was a dangerous game, and I didn't want him following in my footsteps," said the elder Jones, who is a strength and conditioning coach at Alabama. "I wanted him to be a basketball player, but he stopped growing at 6-3.

"He had never put the pads on, but he had knowledge of the game. He and the kids used to play in the playground, too."

The younger Jones' instincts for the game mixed with all-state honors (85 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions) the one year he did play were enough for Alabama to offer him a scholarship as a tight end.

Used primarily as a blocker throughout college, his hands were a question, but his dad said he knew his son could catch from how he handled a basketball.

Jones Sr. also realized how perfect a situation his son landed in when the Ravens selected him.

"The day of the draft, when Ozzie called, I was surprised because there were like seven other teams looking at him," the elder Jones said. "But I knew he was in good hands. I told O if Terry's not acting right, put the foot to him."

Newsome has not had to do that so far. Instead, he is watching his former teammate's son make a name for himself.

"It's like when you are little and you get a bicycle with training wheels on it," Jones said. "When I first got here, I was riding a bicycle with training wheels. Toward the end of last year, they took one off and I kept on riding.

"Then once this season started, they took both of them off and took a chance on me. But they had to have confidence to know that I can do what I can.

"I'm playing with a lot of confidence. I got a second year under my belt. I know everything that is going on and the offense like the back of my hand."

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