Jones told he’s ready for NFL during rookie camp

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

From the ever-present cameras to autograph seekers, there were obvious indications that this two-a-day camp was going to be different experience for Nathan Jones. But the 2009 Forest Park graduate and Ferdinand native knew this going into the Cincinnati Bengals’ four-day rookie camp and adjusted just fine.

Jones

“It boosted my confidence and let me know I belong here,” Jones said. “I can play with these guys. I didn’t feel out of place at all.”

Jones continued: “The NFL lifestyle is different, there’s cameras in your face in the locker room and on the practice field. ... As soon as we got off the vans, there were people wanting your autograph. It’s a little different experience than being in a small school in high school or even college. It’s something you have to adjust to and know how to handle.”

Along with a few dozen other players, Jones stayed in a downtown Cincinnati hotel during the camp last week. The experience was what he essentially expected, as he said much was expected during the two-a-day practices and team meetings; within a day or two, he needed to know the entire playbook, which was scaled back a little but included most of the team’s basic plays. Not surprisingly, Jones said his legs became sore as the first practice started at either 6:30 or 7 in the morning, and the afternoon practice ran from 3 to 5.

“The tempo is definitely high-paced,” Jones said. “One thing they wanted us to learn is you practice on your feet — you don’t dive for balls, you don’t dive for fumbles.”

Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis talked to all the campers, and Jones met individually with running backs coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, the brother of the Super Bowl-winning coach and ESPN commentator Jon Gruden.

The Bengals already have a full training camp roster of 90. Jones knew that going into the rookie camp, which he coined a “show-them-what-you-can-do kind of deal.” It’s still very possible for him to receive an invite to the full camp, especially since he impressed Jackson, who asked Jones to have lunch in his office at one point.

“You can definitely play in this league,” Jones recalled Jackson telling him. “You’re one or two injuries away from being on this team so just keep working and keep getting better, and get ready for camp.”

Jones is still hopeful he may earn a training camp invitation from another team, and his agent will follow up with the Bengals and other possible suitors this week; NFL teams begin training camps later this summer.

Jones roomed with John Clay, a running back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011 before spending last season on injured reserve. Jones said talking to a player with NFL experience helped as he adjusted to the differences in an NFL camp.

A senior at Marian University, Jones needs to complete one more semester before graduating. He says he definitely wants to finish school, and he’s interested in a coaching career after his playing days. If he’s not on an NFL roster this fall, he’ll earn his degree in health education, sports performance and secondary education, taking a full slate of classes. But if he does earn a spot, it’s impossible for him to pass that up.

“It’s a once-in-a lifetime experience,” Jones said. “You don’t want anything to get in the way of what you want to do.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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