Adam Jones will don the “C” in 2016 for the first time in his NFL career.
The longtime Bengals corner has developed a negative reputation among football fans who don’t closely follow Cincinnati, but anyone who knows the Bengals should understand Jones is one of the most influential players in the locker room and one of the Bengals’ best players on the field. Entering his sixth season with the team, Jones is finally a captain.
The corner, as everyone knows, doesn’t ever seem to hold anything back. Challenging everyone throughout OTAs and training camp — from his younger teammates, to the veterans and even coaches — the corner aspires to help the people around him become better at what they do.
“C’mon, beat me,” Jones would often say to the opponents lined up against him, whether rookies or veterans, per Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson. “Catch the ball, kid,” he’d demand of his younger teammates. Even coaches are subject to the veteran’s leadership. “Call it,” the corner would command.
Everyone knows the kind of guy Jones is: he calls it like he sees it, whether people like it or not. Guys like Jones, who hold others accountable, aren’t always the most-liked people in the world, but Jones’ teammates understand how important it is to have someone tell it like it is, especially on the field.
“(Jones) is a guy that has been a leader on this team. He’s been here for a long time,” Andy Dalton said via Bengals.com before Monday’s practice. “Guys understand how he works. The way he goes about doing his business. I was happy for him that the guys voted for him.”
One of the guys who has benefitted most from Jones’ leadership has been the corner who plays opposite him, Dre Kirkpatrick.
“It’s good to have a guy that’s had a little adversity and he’s trying to overcome that adversity,” Kirkpatrick said. “Put him in leadership role and he has to hold himself up. We voted him and he has to make us look good. I feel like he’s well up to par for it.
“He gets guys going that really don’t want to get going. That’s a leader.”
Jones’ encouragement is only one attribute of the quality of leadership he demonstrates. The other, as many would attest, is the cornerback’s leadership by example. Soon to be 33-years-old, there aren’t many players in the NFL, let alone cornerbacks, who are as old as the Bengals’ Pro Bowler. Guys like Jones, who are up there in age, need to work extra hard not only to secure their jobs but also to be effective on Sundays; Jones is no exception there.
“He leads by example and the players have grown to respect how hard he works at the game mentally by studying and physically,” defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said. “He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. He’s truly come a long way in earning that respect.”
This season is the first time Jones has been a captain since his high school days, when he was a captain at the national championship-winning Westlake High School in Atlanta.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Jones of the team vote that secured him the captain title. “I was very eager when I heard the news… It shows the work I’ve put in and the respect I have in the locker room.”
However, Jones’ excitement for the vote of confidence his teammates have given him won’t change the way he approaches the game.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,’ said the corner. “Leading by example.”