''Pacman'' Jones thankful business is over so football can start
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's top draft pick says finally having an NFL contract eases the disappointment of not being able to play his first game as a professional in his hometown.
Adam "Pacman" Jones had hoped to have a contract that would allow him to join the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta on Friday night to play the Falcons. But reaching agreement on a five-year contract more than makes up for not accompanying his new teammates.
"Amazingly, as bad as I wanted to play the game in Atlanta, there's nothing that can take the place of my dream," Jones said. "I've been waiting 21 years for this. I'm just proud to be a Titan. I'm the youngest Titan. I'm hoping that I can come in and maybe I can contribute."
Jones, who left West Virginia after his junior season, had been one of only two draft picks still unsigned after a 20-day holdout. His five-year deal with $13.5 million in guaranteed money left running back Cedric Benson of Chicago as the only draft pick in the NFL without a deal.
The Titans didn't confirm a deal until Thursday in a statement that pointed out the contract language still must be approved by the NFL, NFL Players Association, the team and Jones.
"We are relieved that there seems to be an end in sight to this contract process," Titans general manager Floyd Reese said.
Coach Jeff Fisher had told Jones he needed to practice by Tuesday afternoon to play in the team's second exhibition.
But despite being close to a deal, his agent Michael Huyghue and the Titans negotiated Tuesday and Wednesday before finally reaching an agreement in principle Wednesday night. The Titans still had to write up the contract.
"We may have to dot one more 'I' or cross one more `T,' but he'll be over at the facility when the team gets back and resume practice as soon as they get back," Huyghue said.
That means Jones' first practice will be Sunday afternoon, the first of five remaining practices before the Titans break camp on Aug. 24. The team, which had no comment Wednesday night, was scheduled for a walkthrough Thursday morning before flying to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon.
"Once everyone involved approves the contract language, we will consider the deal finished and get Pac on the field," Reese said. "I want to praise Pacman for his involvement in getting this process headed in the right direction. He requested a personal meeting earlier this week and that jump-started the discussions."
The Titans selected the cornerback with the sixth pick overall and made him the first defensive player taken in the draft based on his speed and his return skills on kickoffs and punts. They hope he can fill one of two cornerback slots left open by salary cap decisions.
"It may take a week or two to get back in the groove," Jones said. "I'm just happy I don't have to see my name go across the screen as unsigned and all that. I'm very content with the spot that I'm in."
Tennessee cut Samari Rolle in February and let their other starter, Andre Dyson, leave in free agency for Seattle because of salary-cap reasons. They picked Jones instead of Antrel Rolle, who went eighth to Arizona.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Jones, the franchise's highest draft pick since Steve McNair was third overall in 1995, won the Titans over with speed timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash and his leaping ability in pre-draft workouts. He recorded a 39-inch vertical leap before the draft.
Complicating the final negotiations had been the Titans' desire to protect themselves. Jones was arrested July 13 and recently had two misdemeanor assault charges and a count of felony vandalism postponed until Dec. 8.
He had his own lawyer file a civil lawsuit last week against the men who had him arrested, seeking $7.5 million for lost endorsement money and defamation and slander.
"All I want to do is help the team," Jones said. "I've been through so much with everything that's going on. I've kept my head high, and hopefully, everything will work out."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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