The first thing Reshad Jones wants you to know is he made a mistake and he apologizes.
“At the end of the day, I did make a mistake,” Jones said last week as he prepared to start his NFL season a month after everyone else because he spent the past four weeks under suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing-substance policy.
“I’m a man, so I have to stand up and stand for that,” Jones continued. “I wasn’t out there for games, so no matter how you look at it, I wasn’t there and it hurt my team. I did make a mistake. It was a learning experience, and it won’t ever happen again.
“There wasn’t any steroid that I took. I don’t need that. I’m all natural. But I learned from it, and it’s past me now. I’m on the team now, and I’m ready to help us win games.”
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That’s the good news that follows the gloom of the past four weeks for Jones. He’s back on the roster. And he is expected to start Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, just like he did the 39 previous consecutive games he played, dating to 2011.
But this isn’t about Reshad Jones returning to his old spot on his old team to be his old self.
That’s not good enough anymore.
This has to be about Jones taking a significant step, if not a leap, to a new level of performance that distinguishes him. This has to be about Jones playing in a way that other people see the Miami Dolphins safety in the same light he sees himself.
“I have playmaking ability,” Jones said. “That’s why they got me back there, to make plays. I’m a difference-maker. When I’m on the field, just my presence, to know I’m back, I think guys rally around and feel good. It’s a good atmosphere.
“I feel like I’m in my prime. I’m only 26 years old. I’m five years in. The sky’s the limit for me.”
Call this the crossroads for Jones. He has been a good player for a couple of years. He hsa shown glimpses he can be the playmaker he envisions himself being — remember the interception-return touchdown against Baltimore last season.
He even came close to getting into the Pro Bowl last year.
But something has been missing. Being close does not translate to fully arrived.
So Jones is expecting his next step will signal that arrival.
Before he could take that step, Jones needed to overcome the suspension. He needed the Dolphins to make certain adjustments in their defensive scheme.
He needed help.
He first sought the help of trainer David Alexander. Alexander has worked with former Heat forward LeBron James and current Heat guard Norris Cole along with other notable athletes around the country.
And so when he was suspended, Jones hired Alexander to get him fit, get him right, get him better for his eventual return.
Dig into Alexander’s Instagram account and you see videos of Jones doing Plyometrics work, running with huge tractor trailer tires strapped to his shoulders, chasing kettle bells while strapped to a bungee cord, and chasing tennis balls and footballs after running around cones.
Oh yes, and there was much other running and weightlifting to round out the days.
“The first day [of the suspension] I actually slept,” Jones admits. “I let everything process and let everything hit me. When I woke up, I called my trainer and told him, ‘Hey, I’m off four weeks, we have to hit the ground running.’
“The workouts were intense. There was a lot of cardio and lifting. I’d do a set of lifting and go out and run. Then lift again and run again. There was no break in between. I’d get 60 seconds to recover then run, then get back in the weight room. It was intense.”
The work went on Monday through Friday.
“I got my mind set on striving for greatness,” Jones said. “He pushed me every day to get me there. It helped.”
The results have been tangible. Jones was on a diet that limited his flour intake. He dropped seven pounds and is 212 pounds now.
And his return to the Dolphins’ practice field opened eyes right away.
“We’re very, very pleased with the condition that Reshad has come back in,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “… His play speed has been excellent. Sometimes guys give each other a hard time about having fresh legs when somebody comes back from either being injured or what have you, but he’s noticeably fast out on the field right now and covering a lot of ground and doing a good job.”
Covering a lot of ground is what Jones says he does best. The tape shows he can do that when he gets that chance.
But in the past, last year in particular, the Dolphins didn’t often give him that opportunity. Because the run defense was struggling at No.24 in the NFL, the Dolphins turned Jones into a box safety most of the time.
He became the strong safety playing near the line of scrimmage. He was a glorified linebacker, and the 107 tackles — second on the team and more than two of Miami’s three actual linebackers — proved that.
So Jones collected a lot of tackles but not a lot of big plays.
“I didn’t get the game-changing plays,” Jones said. “I didn’t get a bunch of opportunities for that last year. I think I had one.”
That may be about to change. This year, the Dolphins added Louis Delmas, and he’s well-suited to be the strong safety, the safety in the tackle box.
So Jones thinks he might get a chance to roam the secondary as the free safety more often.
“That’s what I do best,” Jones said. “I’ll be back there, for sure. Luckily, we have another good safety in Louis Delmas that can handle the run and make good tackles and hit some people. That could free me up a little bit to be back there and make big plays for this team.”
And Jones has no doubts he’s capable of doing that better than he’s ever done it for the Dolphins before.
“I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be one of the best safeties in the game. I know some [bad things] happened and everything that went down with the suspension, the way it happened. But that’s past now. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.
“There’s good that can come out of this. My whole mind-set is I need to play at a level that lets everyone know I’m one of the best safeties in the game and compete and help my team win and make the playoffs. I’m going to play by [butt] off.”