Jones keeps Pacman nickname, starts new chapter
OXNARD, Calif. -- On the field, he is still "Pacman" -- and embracing the nickname he seemed to be wanting to shed not so long ago.
That is what his new Dallas Cowboys teammates and coaches call Adam Jones at training camp. When fans chant the still-suspended cornerback's name, they're yelling "Pacman! Pacman!" And that is what his autograph reads, including the signature he penned on the backside of an infant.
He even introduced himself as "Pac" when meeting some visitors on the field before practice Monday.
"I'm not really shedding the nickname," said Jones, who anticipates being fully reinstated to play this season for the Cowboys.
A month ago, though, Jones said he preferred to be called "Adam or Mr. Jones" instead of the nickname given him by his mother and how he's been known his entire life. His explanation then was that there was "a lot of negativity" with that moniker and it was time for a change.
That declaration came after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cleared Jones to practice and he went through three weeks of workouts.
Asked what was different now in camp, Jones responded to reporters, "It's just for y'all that I'm shedding the nickname. All my teammates call me Pacman. ... Y'all are not my teammates, y'all are not in the locker room and going through the trenches with me."
But neither are the fans clamoring for his autograph on No. 21 jerseys, or the man who held up an infant and had Jones sign the back of the child's outfit.
Regardless of what Jones is called -- "I call him dummy if I want," Tank Johnson said, laughing when asked which name was proper -- off-field issues are what got Jones in trouble and suspended from the NFL last season while he was still with Tennessee. That is what had to change.
Jones was suspended in April 2007 following an accumulation of arrests and legal problems. He has been arrested six times and involved in a dozen incidents requiring police intervention since the Titans drafted him in the first round in 2005.
Goodell hasn't said yet if Jones will be allowed to play in the regular season. That decision might not come until the week of the Cowboys' opener on Sept. 7.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello would only say Monday that a decision on Jones would come "some time before the regular season."
Jones said he is focused on training camp and getting ready to play this season. Not the pending decision by the commissioner.
"I'm not even worrying about that, it will come," Jones said. "All I've got to do is do my part, and I'm doing it."
There is enough else to keep Jones occupied: learning the Cowboys' defense and coverages while getting back into playing shape after more than a year off the field. He hasn't played in an NFL game since 2006, and finally donned pads again when training camp got into full swing over the weekend.
"I've got a lot of fine-tuning to do with my hands and feet. ... But it's coming back," he said. "By the first regular-season game, I want to be ready to rock and roll and I think I'm preparing myself to be ready."
Jones, who is also returning kicks, is trying to match up against Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens as much as possible during passing drills.
When the two were lined up against each other in a drill Sunday, Jones started pumping his arms in the air to spur on the crowd. Then T.O. blew past him with a double move and caught a long touchdown pass from Tony Romo.
On Monday, Jones jammed Owens at the line, but T.O. got past him again. On another play, Jones got tangled up and tripped another receiver downfield when the ball was in the air.
"I look forward to it every day. I relish those moments," Owens said of the one-on-one matchups with Jones. "I think everyone knows that Adam wants to be the best defensive back."
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips described the 5-foot-10 Jones as "pretty quiet, a little more introverted" and more physical than he imagined. And somebody excited to be on the field again.
"I can see he's enjoying it, being around the players, being a part of the football team," Phillips said. "He likes to compete."
Phillips has said the team is preparing as if Jones will be on the field for the opener in Cleveland.
For Jones, each day on the field is a step closer to playing in a game again. That's his only focus, not the past off-field issues.
"Everything else is behind me. I thank God for putting me in this situation where I can be with the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said. "The mistakes are behind me and I'm looking forward to the future. ... Not saying I wanted it, but I had good vacation and I'm here to play football."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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