Jacoby Jones has been back cutting and catching balls on the practice fields for the Ravens, a week after he Cha-Cha-ed and waltzed his way to a third-place finish in the latest season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
We won’t get a look at the wide receiver-kick returner-playoff hero until Friday’s organized team activity, but Jones will be trying to buck the trend of recent “DWTS” contestants who struggled after returning to football.
Jones has age on his side, though, compared to retired players-dancers such as Jason Taylor and Hines Ward.
When Taylor danced with the stars in 2008, the pass rusher became the first active NFL player to compete on the dance competition reality show. Taylor, who was 33 at the time, finished second then saw his sack total dip from 11 with the Miami Dolphins in 2007 to just 3.5 with the Washington Redskins in 2008. Taylor played three more seasons, tallying 19 sacks in two more stints with the Dolphins and a year with the New York Jets.
Two years later, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco appeared on the show and placed fourth. Then in 2010, his age 32 season, he caught just 67 passes for 831 yards and four scores. In his previous season, when Ochocinco was still Chad Johnson, he had 72 catches for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns.
In 2011, Ward, the veteran Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and maybe the most-hated man in Baltimore, won the competition. In the ensuing season, his last in the NFL, the then-35-year-old receiver had 46 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest totals in those categories since his rookie season.
Last year, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver also danced his way to the title before his swan song in the NFL. In 2012, his age 37 season, Driver caught just eight passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. His production had already been steadily declining since 2009, though. Driver retired this winter.
Jones became the fifth active player to compete on “DWTS,” in large part due to his flamboyant end-zone dances after clutch touchdown catches and returns in the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.
In 2012, Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl -- as a returner -- for the first time in his career, but unlike his predecessors, he was not an established NFL star with a household name before the show.
The speedy receiver made 30 catches for the Ravens in 2012, but his 406 receiving yards and one touchdown catch were his lowest totals in those categories since 2008, his second NFL season.
But with his 29th birthday coming up in July, Jones is still in his athletic prime. And he has a prime opportunity to earn an expanded role in the offense after the offseason trade of Anquan Boldin.
His situation will be different than what declining stars like Taylor and Ward went through, so there is reason to believe he will buck the trend of players taking a step back after dancing with the stars.