Chicago’s Devin Hester holds the NFL career record with 12 punt returns for touchdowns.
Adam Jones ranks second among active players and is tied for 13th on the all-time list with five punt return TDs.
Considering that he has missed 60 games over the last seven years due to injuries or suspensions, does Jones think that he would be close to Hester’s mark if he hadn’t missed so much time?
“I don’t want to assume anything,” Jones told me. “Devin Hester is a great friend of mine and one of the best returners to ever play the game. He’s good man – he’s really, really good. We’re two different types of returners.”
You might say that Adam dodged the question as well as he dodged the Cleveland Browns last week (watch the highlight here).
I did some research into Adam’s success as a punt returner and was surprised by what I discovered: Statistically he is as likely to return a punt for a TD as nearly anyone that has ever played the game.
Jones has scored five touchdowns despite only returning 94 punts in his career – that’s a touchdown every 18.8 returns. While that’s not quite as good as Hester (TD every 17.4 returns), it’s far superior to Deion Sanders (TD every 35.3), Dante Hall (TD every 36.0) and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson (TD every 47.0).
“I marvel at his abilities in many ways,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “He is amazing with the ball in his hands. He’s amazing when they do their individual DB drills and they’re doing a tackling drill and he’s the ball carrier. He’s very, very difficult to get your hands on.”
“Instinct,” answered Jones when I asked him what makes a great return man. “A lot of people ask me if I remembered what happened after a big return and nine times out of 10, I don’t remember what happened until I go back and look at it and then I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ Instinct has a lot to do with it.”
Considering how explosive that Adam is with the ball in his hands, how did he ever wind up on defense?
“That’s a good question,” Jones said with a laugh. “I actually went to (West Virginia) to play running back and at the time we had Avon Cobourne. The coaches were like, ‘Well, you’re not playing running back, so if you want a chance to play this year, you can go to defense and do punt returns and kick returns.’ I was so young and eager to play that I ran over to cornerback.”
With his 29th birthday coming up in less than two weeks, Jones isn’t quite so young anymore, but he remains as eager as ever to take the field every Sunday.
“Sunday is one of the best feelings you can get,” said Jones. “In life you have to tone things down and live up to standards. On Sundays, it’s the only day that I can go out and just be reckless. You have to know when to turn it on and turn it off and that’s the day that I get to turn it on. That’s the day that I get to be Pac-Man and not Adam. I love playing this game and I love competing against other guys.”
Jones was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday after returning three punts for 90 yards and one kickoff for 31 yards in last week’s win over Cleveland. He’s hoping to get as many opportunities to return kicks and punts as the coaching staff will give him.
“When my number is called, I’ll be ready,” said Jones. “I’m just going to keep working hard and pray that my body stays healthy. The sky is the limit.”
“He’s dynamic and we’ve known that for a long time,” said special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. “It’s just a matter of him being healthy and the situation being right. I’m glad that it finally happened for him.”
“He’s done a wonderful job of becoming responsible with the football, and of understanding the schematics of the return game,” said Coach Lewis. “He’s come light years in that way. He really is a good student of it right now. He’s an exciting guy, he’s electrifying. He gets everybody excited when he’s back there. Some of the things we were more concerned with him with before, he’s really done a good job of proving that he can make the good choices and the good decisions with that. It’s a good thing, and it’s a big positive for us.”
Here’s a look at how Jones compares to the 12 players in NFL history that have returned more punts for touchdowns than he has:
Devin Hester: 12 TD in 209 returns (every 17.4)
Eric Metcalf: 10 TD in 351 returns (every 35.1)
Brian Mitchell: 9 TD in 463 returns (every 51.4)
Desmond Howard: 8 TD in 244 returns (every 30.5)
Jack Christiansen: 8 TD in 85 returns (every 10.6)
Rich Upchurch: 8 TD in 248 returns (every 31.0)
Dave Meggett: 7 TD in 349 returns (every 49.9)
Deion Sanders: 6 TD in 212 returns (every 35.3)
Jermaine Lewis: 6 TD in 295 returns (every 49.2)
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson: 6 TD in 282 returns (every 47.0)
Dante Hall: 6 TD in 216 returns (every 36.0)
Darrien Gordon: 6 TD in 314 returns (every 52.3)
Adam Jones: 5 TD in 94 returns (every 18.8)
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