By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – A rookie wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, TJ Jones has plenty of company at the position. Starters Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate lead the group, and Jones will contend with a plethora of more experienced backups for a spot on the 53-man roster.
After going through rookie minicamp and three OTA practices, Jones, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame, is working to find his role.
“It’s been going well, slowly been picking up the playbook,” Jones said Wednesday. “You’ve got to kind of take a lot of mental reps now. It’s a lot of watching the vets, watching what they do, how they run the routes, and really trying to hone in the playbook for yourself.
“Just trying to be a sponge,” Jones added. “When you have two greats like that in front of you, you got to pick their brains, see how they play the game, how they take care of themselves on and off the field, how they prepare. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Right now, the playbook remains the focus for Jones, who said the offense he learned with the Fighting Irish has little in common with that of the Lions.
“Once I learn the playbook, once I don’t have to think as much, I can really go out and play,” Jones said. “I can hone in on my skills, I can work on my route-running, but I can’t do any of that without the playbook knowledge.”
Odds and Ends
When Jones took the podium during rookie minicamp for his first session with the media, some of the first questions he took involved his name. TJ stands for Tai-ler Jones – the “Tai” a nod to his Korean heritage – with Tai-ler pronounced Tyler. Jones had always gone by his given first name, but the transition to college prompted Jones, who played his high school football in Georgia, to make the change to TJ.
“People started calling me Taylor, Trailer, Tai-leer,” Jones said, “and with my Southern drawl, when I would introduce myself, I would say, ‘Ty-lah,’ and wouldn’t pronounce the ‘r,’ so it just made it easier for game purposes and just social purposes to say TJ.”
Jones signed a four-year deal with Detroit and netted a $106,200 signing bonus, according to ESPN, but if he ends up needing another job, he has one in mind. Always fascinated with aquatic life, Jones worked briefly at the Florida Aquarium, where he swam with sharks. As far as what went through his mind when he hopped in the water with the large carnivorous fish, Jones laughed.
“Well if I’m supposed to get bitten, I’ll get bitten, so not to worry about it, so I just kind of jump in the tank with an open mind and was trying not to worry, but when it’s inches away from your face, you get a little scared,” Jones admitted with a smile. “You see the teeth up close, so that definitely doesn’t help not worrying about it, but you try to soak it in. You freeze up a little bit, but they said not to panic or that can kind of set them off.”
In his bio on Notre Dame’s website, Jones lists his hometown as Gainesville, Ga., but he was born in Winnipeg, Canada.
“[I] wasn’t an American citizen until I was 17,” Jones said. “I think I was maybe a year-ish, so I was just born over there. My father was playing in the Canadian league for a little while, so then we moved back here, and I think the first city we moved to was actually Detroit.”