Thomas Jones was back on the practice field today. Just four days prior to Sunday's matchup with the Patriots at the Meadowlands, he said the condition of his leg continues to improve.
"I feel a lot better than I felt the last couple of weeks of training camp," Jones said at his locker in a brief exchange with reporters prior to the Green & White's workout. "They did a really good job of trying to get me back on the field. I'm going to practice today, I'm going to practice tomorrow, and go into the game and see how it goes."
Jones, who played in one preseason game for the Jets but was on the sideline for most of training camp, was stationed near the far end zone away from the media for the majority of the 30 minutes reporters are allowed at practice. He received teaching from RB coach Jimmy Raye and took a few handoffs from Kellen Clemens and Marques Tuiasosopo. Under the NFL's new injury report guidelines, he was listed with a calf injury and as having limited participation in practice.
There were no defenders in those early drills, nothing but a trio of blue buckets lined up a couple of yards apart to simulate running holes. The Pats will be in the way of the Jets' runners Sunday. Last November, Jones gained 99 yards on 23 carries as the Bears lost a close contest at Gillette Stadium.
In a conference call with Boston-area reporters today, Jones said of the Patriots: "They play hard, they've got some hard-nosed guys and they are experienced. They've played in a lot of Super Bowls and they've won a lot of games. One thing you can't make up for a lot of times is experience. They're a well-coached team and they play well together."
The same can be said of the Jets. When a question arose about his new environment and his new head coach, Eric Mangini, the coalminer's son described the work ethic of those at Weeb Ewbank Hall.
"These guys are focused on winning football games. They are very detailed. They make sure guys know what they are doing as far as the game plan is concerned," he said. "It is a blue-collar-type situation and that's the type of situation I like to be in. I come to work every day, every day I try to get better and learn everything I can during the week about the opposing team, so when I see them on Sunday I'm ready to play. The coaching staff makes sure we know exactly what's going on before we play."
In the off-season, the Jets and the Patriots received national praise for their additions of Jones and Randy Moss respectively. Moss, a big-play wide receiver who was slowed down in camp with a hamstring injury, remains a question mark for Sunday.
"We have both played a lot of football in our careers, so we pretty much know what it is when game time comes," Jones said. "Unfortunately I had the injury early in camp and missed the last couple of preseason games, but I did a lot of conditioning, watched a lot of film and pretty much was doing everything the team was doing. As far as me being caught up to speed, that is not an issue."
When Pats head coach Bill Belichick talked about the Jets' offense today, he referred to it as "well-balanced" on multiple occasions. Jones can run it and catch it, and he's fitting in well with his teammates.
"I'm sure they think he's going to help them a lot," Belichick said. "They traded for him and he had 2,500 yards the last couple of years. He's a good player. He played well for the Bears and had a lot of production."
Jones' role for Sunday remains a mystery to everyone except the Jets coaching staff. But he feels better and that's a good sign.