Brandon Jones’ four-year career with the Tennessee Titans has many times looked more like the Dow Jones.
There have been maddening highs and frustrating lows since he was selected in the third round of the 2005 draft. A handful of wowing catches, interspersed with occasional lapses and disappearances in his production, as well as serious knee and groin injuries that have shortened his seasons and his production.
But perhaps the lowest point of Jones’ checkered career as a Titan is the one that constantly sticks with him and drives him to do better.
It came last year in week two at LP Field against Indianapolis. The Titans trailed 22-20 in the closing seconds of the game, and Jones was in position to put Tennessee within reach of a potential winning field goal. But the fourth down pass that came his way from Vince Young slipped right through his hands, as did any chance to win the football game.
NFL players are taught to move on after games win or lose _ the 24-hour rule, it’s called. But a part of Jones is still drawn to Sept. 16, 2007, and he says that won’t change.
“I’m not going to let it go,” Jones said. “Just the feeling of how you’ve got to look at your teammates, your coaches, walking in the locker room. I mean that feeling it’s like a dagger in your back. I’m going to keep that. So it’s a learning experience, and let me learn from that, because I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I want to go out there with no regrets.”
After the game, a guilt-ridden Jones slipped Young at text message on his cell phone.
“I texted him, and told him it would never happen again,” Jones said. “If it does, I just look forward to making a play for him. I don’t want that to happen.”
Of late, Jones, whose major on-field issue had always been consistency, seems to have found it. In the past three games, with Kerry Collins now entrenched as the Titans quarterback, Jones has caught 16 passes and has already tied his career high of 27 receptions.
He said the awful feeling of the costly drop serves as his daily reminder to rededicate himself to his role.
“Every day I try to make myself put myself back in that position last year of how I felt after that game,” Jones said. “That’s what I do. That’s what’s pushing me. That was the worst feeling in the world, and I come in here every morning, and I’m like, ‘OK, Brandon, don’t let anything [stop you]. I go out and people say, ‘Great job.’ I hear it all the time.
“But God is going to humble me and I’m going to humble myself and I get that same mindset, ‘Remember how you felt last year after Indianapolis? That’s the way I want you to come in here.’ That makes me hungry in the locker room.”
And those who matter most are beginning to take note of what Jones is doing.
“I think Brandon has really come around. I think he’s playing with more confidence,” quarterback Kerry Collins said. “I think he is running crisper routes, and I think his overall preparation is a lot better.
“He’s starting to see how good he can be, and he’s starting to believe in how good he can be. He’s made some huge catches for us, especially the last few weeks. Brandon is turning it on at the right time for us.”
Enough that offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who can be very hard to please when it comes to wide receivers, says the Titans are putting things in the game plan each week to try and get Jones the football. He had a career-high eight receptions Sunday in Chicago.
“When Brandon is in the slot, he does a great job. He was in the slot for a few of those catches, and I think he’s got a real good feel for what he’s doing in there, and he finds holes and doesn’t get jabbed,” Heimerdinger said. “I think three of those were in the slots. He found the holes and did a good job, and Kerry knows he’s going to get open in there. I think he’s concentrating well now, and he’s working it.
“I think he knows that there are some things that are designed to go to him right now that we’ve always done that if you make plays, there’ll be some designation for you. He’s doing a good job right now.”
Good enough that Jones appears to be responding well to Heimerdinger’s often-blunt style of coaching.
“He challenges us and I feed off that,” Jones said. “You don’t like it as a receiver. You want to hear something more positive, but that’s how he coaches. You’ve got to take it, because he’s going to be here.”
Shout out: Chris Johnson didn’t attend or watch the Country Music Awards Wednesday night, but he was well represented.
Kicker Rob Bironas was among about eight Titans players there, and he got some attention as well, when Kid Rock wore his No. 2 jersey on stage while performance. When hip-hop artist Lil’ Wayne joined Kid Rock on stage, he donned Johnson’s No. 28 jersey.
“I didn’t go to it, but I got a text,” said Johnson who attended a Lil’ Wayne show a few weeks ago in Nashville and met the hip-hop star. “We talk from time to time, so I got a text message. He was repping me hard. I didn’t really know about it beforehand, but I heard something about it from Rob.”
Johnson said that when he met Lil’ Wayne, the rapper told him Johnson was on his fantasy team.
As for Bironas, center Kevin Mawae, who was in attendance with Titans teammates in a suite watching the events, said there is doubt as to how the Bironas-Kid Rock connection came about.
“It was pretty cool,” Mawae said. “I was like, ‘How’d he get that jersey?’ And about five minutes later Rob Bironas came up to where we were all at, and there’s still some discrepancy as to whether he begged Kid Rock to wear the jersey or whether Kid Rock asked for it. We kind of tend to believe that he banged on Kid Rock’s dressing room door to ask him a wear the jersey when he went out. Because otherwise, who would ever ask to wear a kicker’s jersey.”
Injuries: Linebacker Keith Bulluck did some running on the side, but did not practice. Bulluck is still likely to play on Sunday in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, defensive linemen Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and Jason Jones (foot) continue to be idle and their status for Sunday could be less positive. Vanden Bosch was shut down last week after four weeks of trying to push through the injury. Jones was wearing a walking boot on his right foot on Thursday.
Elsewhere, fullback Ahmard Hall (concussion) returned to practice, as did safety Michael Griffin (flu) and cornerback Nick Harper (ankle), who practiced in limited fashion.
Guard Eugene Amano was out a second straight day with a knee injury, but Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he should practice Friday.
Receiver Justin McCareins (concussion) also missed another day, but said he hopes to be cleared to play Sunday.
“I want to play and I want to practice. I don’t know what the rules are. I feel confident that I can play, and I hope I’m cleared to play,” McCareins said.
Spotlight: ESPN’s Kenny Mayne visited Baptist Sports Park Thursday for an upcoming feature on the unbeaten Titans.