Unhappy Jones injures hamstring in Bears camp

Updated: July 27, 2006, 9:18 PM ET
Associated Press

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Thomas Jones was slated to be a backup in the Chicago Bears' first practice of training camp Thursday. As it turned out, he didn't take part in any drills because he was injured in unusual fashion -- while taking his physical.

Jones, who last season joined Walter Payton as the only Bears running backs to eclipse 1,300 yards, strained his hamstring while running during the physical Thursday morning.

"It was something where I ran this morning kind of early. I may not have stretched as much as I should have been. It was something that just happened. It could happen to anybody," Jones said.

Jones was put on a physically unable to perform list to start training camp and will be re-evaluated daily, the team said. He can come off the list at any time.

After skipping voluntary offseason workouts with the team, Jones was demoted off the first team, and 2005 first-round draft choice Cedric Benson moved up to the No. 1 unit.

One report during the offseason said that Jones, unhappy with his contract and his status relative to Benson, would prefer a trade.

"As far as the trade situation, I really don't have a comment on that. Those are things that aren't important. I'm here at training camp trying to get ready," Jones said.

He had 1,335 yards rushing last season and gained 948 yards in 2004, his first year with the Bears. He has two years left on his contract.

"Anybody who has done what I have done the last couple of years, I mean is a guy that should be a starter," Jones said.

"I think I was a leader on the offense the last two years. I think I've been very productive despite some of the situations that I've had to be in. I've worked hard. I've kept my mouth shut and I stay out of trouble. I do what I'm supposed to do. I do what the coaches ask me to do. So as far as me being the starter, I was the starter the past two years so we'll see how that goes."

But Jones acknowledged that money sometimes dictates the course of what goes on in the NFL. And the Bears are paying Benson handsomely to play, not sit. He signed a five-year contract after a 36-day holdout a year ago and received approximately $17 million in guaranteed money.

"It's not just a football league," Jones said after being mainly a spectator at Thursday's practice.

"There's a business side, too. A lot of people don't understand that. But money does dictate a lot in this league, but at the same time there's two sides to every story. I just am trying to focus on what I have to do, which is being here, playing football and letting everything else happen the way it happens."

Coach Lovie Smith said Jones was aware of the rotation with Benson on the first team.

"There weren't any surprises when he came here," Smith said.

Jones was first moved off the first team at a June minicamp after he'd skipped organized team activities.

Now he has to deal with an injury.

"Thomas is anxious to get on the football field and compete for that running back position, just like Cedric and Adrian (Peterson)," Smith said.

During the offseason, Jones said he never was told he wouldn't be starting.

"The conversation never came up. That wasn't something I was even considering," he said.

And how about Smith's decision to demote a 1,300-yard rusher?

"He's the coach. He makes the decisions. Obviously it was one he felt like he had to make and that's what he did," Jones said.

"There was nothing much that I could do about it."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press