LIONS INSIDER

Jones' itch to return 'like poison ivy times a million'

Posted May 14, 2015

It’s been a long road to recovery for wide receiver TJ Jones, but he can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When TJ Jones got to Allen Park last May after being drafted in the sixth round by Detroit, he was at his athletic peak at 6-foot, 188 pounds.

Shoulder and nerve troubles would wipe out his rookie season, however, and at one point following surgery last year Jones said he weighed 170 pounds because he wasn’t able to lift or work out.

It’s been a long road to recovery for Jones, but he can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

TJ JonesWR TJ Jones (Photo: Detroit Lions)

“At this point I’m feeling great,” he told detroitlions.com. “Now it's kind of getting back to the normality of things. Running through routes on the field, catching the ball. You almost have to re-teach your hands how to catch because they were so quote, unquote broke for so long, it’s almost like learning how to walk again.”

Jones has been back working with his teammates in the offseason program, and he's up to 190 pounds (and hoping to add a few more). He is eager to show the coaching staff what he can do.

“It’s like poison ivy times a million,” Jones said of the itch he has to prove himself. “It’s bad. I know there are a lot of question marks with the coaching staff. They may not voice it, but I just know since I didn’t get to prove myself there’s a lot of, ‘What can he do? What does he bring to the table? Is what we saw on film ... is he still capable of doing after the injuries?’

“Right now it’s using these couple weeks of football school to kind of retrain myself and then hopefully during OTAs just be able to go full go and not think about anything and catch and make plays.”

Jones did a lot of playmaking in college at Notre Dame, which is the main reason the Lions drafted him last year. He ended his college career as one of six receivers in school history with at least 150 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.

Jones led the Irish with 70 receptions, 1,108 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as a senior in 2013.

Along with bolstering their receiving corps, the Lions are looking to improve their return game in 2015. The team is hoping for good competition to develop this summer at the return spots. Jones says he's been working at both returning kickoffs and punts this offseason.

“Right now I’m working a little bit return, kickoff and punt, which I did last year before the surgery,” he said. “And then also trying to get in anywhere I fit it – jammer, gunner, if they need help on the front line, kickoff, return or safety on kickoffs. Put me wherever, I’m going to do the job, anything that can help me earn a spot on this team this year.”

The Lions have a log jam at receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Jones will be vying with Lance Moore, Corey Fuller, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Andrew Peacock, Jarred Haggins, Vernon Johnson and Erik Lora for the three spots remaining on the roster.

“He’s been fully released, obviously, from the doctors’ end of it and he’s healed up quite nicely,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of Jones. “I think he’s still working himself into a position where’s got all of his girth back because you do lose a little bit with inactivity. But he’s been working hard at it, he’s gaining and he’s making strides.”

After having football taken away from him for a whole year, Jones is just happy to be back on the field again. He’ll worry about the 53-man roster at the appropriate time.

“I missed it a lot,” Jones said of sitting out the 2014 season. “It was an emotional roller coaster from highs of ‘ok, I’ll be ready in a couple weeks to play’ to lows of ‘alright, now I’m on IR for the year and is my hand ever going to be normal?’

“You realize how much you love it and why I’ve played this sport so long. I missed it a lot. You find out what your true loves are when they’re taken away from you.”