It has been a hectic 48 hours for former Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones, whose hard work during his four years in Baltimore was rewarded with a five-year, $33 million contract from the Indianapolis Colts shortly after free agency began Tuesday afternoon.
After the deal was finalized, the Colts flew Jones on their private jet to Indianapolis and he wined and dined with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, he was in the Colts facility taking physicals and meeting with his new coaches. After another fancy dinner Wednesday night, Jones finally got a few minutes to let it all soak in.
"I wish the Ravens nothing but the best. It was an awesome four years and I made a lot of great friends on that team and in the community that I'm going to have for the rest of my life," Jones said in a phone interview. "It was definitely a special place for me. I'm going to miss it. I'm definitely going to miss those crab cakes. But right now, it's a new chapter in my life."
Jones, one of the first free agents off the board Tuesday, said he would have liked to stay in Baltimore, but that the Ravens did not make him an offer in the weeks and days leading up to the start of free agency. He admitted that he was surprised and disappointed that they didn't, but he understands that the NFL is a business and said that he has no animosity toward the Ravens.
"I have nothing bad to say about the Ravens because they took a chance on me in the fifth round [in 2010] after I was injured during my senior year," the former Syracuse standout said. "I felt like when they drafted me in the fifth round, I felt like a first-round pick because you just want to be drafted. I felt from Day 1 that I wouldn't let my round determine who I am. I said I was going to work hard and smile and just be myself and God blessed me with other opportunities in life."
Several teams, including the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings, expressed interest in Jones during the legal negotiation period that ran from Saturday until Tuesday. But when his agent, Joe Panos, told him that the Colts were interested, Jones immediately knew where he hoped to land.
"Right away, when I saw that they were one of the teams, I told my agent to make this thing happen," Jones said. "And that's what he did."
Pagano was a "huge factor" to Jones, who was drawn to Pagano during the coach's one year as defensive coordinator in Baltimore in 2011. He loved the "passion that he coached with" and that Pagano "brought fire to every single game he coached." And when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia during his first season as the Colts head coach, Jones shaved his head to show his support from afar.
"I had dinner with Coach Pagano [on Tuesday] night and it was amazing," Jones said. "We reminisced about the good times in Baltimore and we shared our goals for me as a player. And we talked about making new memories here in Indy. The process has been both fun and difficult, but I'm blessed for this opportunity."
He said that Cory Redding, who took him under his wing as a young player in Baltimore, was also a factor.
Jones, a strong run defender who showed flashes of pass-rushing ability with the Ravens, will be missed. But he feels the Ravens are in good hands with young defensive linemen such as DeAngelo Tyson, Brandon Williams and Kapron Lewis-Moore. He showed a special fondness for Lewis-Moore "because he reminds me a lot of myself." Lewis-Moore's draft stock took a hit a year ago after he tore his ACL in the 2013 BCS title game, allowing the Ravens to draft him in the sixth round.
"They have a lot of young defensive linemen in Baltimore that I know are going to a great job," he said.
As he starts the next chapter of his football career and his life in Indianapolis, Jones said he would miss the fans who treated him so well here. He said Colts fans have made a strong first impression on him, but he will always have fond memories of how he was treated by Ravens fans.
"Baltimore has been nothing but great and it has definitely been bittersweet [saying goodbye]," he said. "I'm going to be around Baltimore until July, so if you see me around, don't be afraid to come say hello. I will always have soft spot in my heart for Baltimore after being a part of that Super Bowl team and I'm happy to be blessed to have had that opportunity."