If you believe Jacoby Jones, the hurt and the anger and the frustration have finally subsided.
Jones says he doesn’t care how Houston fans will receive him on Sunday and that playing his former team, the Houston Texans, will be just like any other game. He says he has no ill will towards the Texans for releasing him after he muffed a punt and lost a fumble in the AFC divisional round last January, key plays in the Ravens’ 20-13 victory at M&T; Bank Stadium. And he says he has put the pain of that loss behind him.
“That’s the only way you can be successful in life,” the 28-year-old wide receiver and return specialist said Wednesday. “If you dwell on the past, you can’t move forward. Once I put it behind me, I am rolling now.”
Jones was rolling in Sunday’s 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys, putting 11 defenders behind him when he tied an NFL record with his 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a play that helped him earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. It was another big play in limited action for Jones, who is now handling all of the Ravens’ return duties and who has 11 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown as their third receiver.
On the field, where his speed stands out, there is usually no reason for Jones to look behind him. But this week, as he prepares to return to the city where his NFL career started, he is forced to. Recently, he had tried to steer clear of questions about his Texans career ended, instead focusing on his new beginning in Baltimore with the 5-1 Ravens. The questions finally caught up to him this week, and he greeted them with a smile.
“I think I had five good years there,” Jones said in an irregular appearance at the podium. “They gave me an opportunity to play in the NFL. I appreciate them for it. I moved on to another team -- breath of fresh air.”
Jones said as soon as a Maryland area code popped up on his caller ID back in May, he was “thinking about a Super Bowl ring.”
"He wanted to be here. So, it wasn’t anything that was really difficult to get done," coach John Harbaugh said. "I think it was one phone call. Jacoby has been great. He’s been a great teammate, he’s been a great worker. He’s just fun to be around."
It appears to be a good fit for both parties. Six weeks into the NFL season, the injury-riddled Ravens and the 5-1 Texans are two of the early-season favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Sunday’s game, assuming there isn’t an improbable tie, will give one of these teams the inside track to getting there.
Maybe that’s why Jones seems to be so upbeat recently. Or maybe it’s because he is happy with his role of supplying big plays however they are needed. Or maybe it’s simply because he never stays down for long.
Some questioned his dedication to the game when he was in Houston, but there have been no such whispers here. He exuded joy while doing a jig after his return touchdown against the Cowboys, a dance that earned him “Celebration of the Week” honors on NFL Network.
“I’m closer to a “Dancing with the Stars,’ player,” he said to a reporter, who then asked him if he had another dance lined up. Jones replied, “I said I was going to be humble and not dance, but I think I have something in my sock. I’ve got something. I’m going to pull something out.”
It’s unclear if his former coach in Houston, Gary Kubiak, has taken notice of his dance moves, but he spoke highly of Jones and his performance this season while on a conference call with Baltimore reporters.
“Boy, he is playing well,” Kubiak said Wednesday. “And congratulations to him -- what a return last week. We know what Jacoby is capable of. He did it for us here. He’s always made some big plays, and he’s making them not only on special teams, but catching a lot of balls also. We know what we are facing in Jacoby. He’s a dynamic player. He’s got an ability to make big plays. He’s doing a heck of a job for you guys.”
In Houston, he tantalized fans with those big plays, drawing comparisons to Andre Johnson. But he frustrated them with drops, uneven play and those costly miscues in the playoffs, which is why they may greet him with boos Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium.
“I don’t even care,” Jones said. “I am [a part of] Ravens Nation. They love me and I love them. That’s all that matters right now.”