Friday, August 25, 2017

Cyrus Jones Speaks Out, Now Seeks To Back Up His Words

"Buy the ticket, take the ride - and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well, maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten..." - Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Cyrus Jones says he doesn't listen to the negativity that fans throw his way.

That's fortunate for him, as there has been plenty leveled at him in the 15 months that he has been a member of the New England Patriots - but for a man who in college retaliated on twitter against opponents who disrespected him just as much as a certain current President does, how can that be?

Especially since while he was in college at Alabama, he used negative tweets about him as additional motivation to become what a former fellow Crimson Tide corner described as a "shut down" corner - but only after he would respond to the nasty tweets in kind.

"What right do you have to say anything to a player that's out there doing what we do?" Jones said after the opening game of his senior season at Tuscaloosa, adding, "I can't really say what I want to say all the time."

Tide coach Nick Saban would have preferred Jones not say anything at all, preferring that his players do their talking on the field - which Jones did in that opener, returning a punt 69 yards for a touchdown and holding Mississippi State's De'Runnya Wilson to three catches for 38 pedestrian yards and slapping away a touchdown pass despite giving up seven inches to Wilson.

Quite a response to Bulldog fans who razzed him all week leading up to the game, tweeting that Wilson was going to abuse him down the field.

"I don't back down from anyone." Jones said after the game.

In 2015, Jones put himself squarely on the NFL map with a senior season in which he recorded two picks and seven passes defended despite quarterbacks throwing away from his side of the field as a matter of course.

"I really can't remember many balls that Cyrus has given up this time of the year" fellow corner Marlon Humphries said late in the 2015 season. "The quarterbacks look at him and say 'ok, I'm going to throw on him', and then he turns around and gets a pass break up or a pick - and then that side of the field is shut down the rest of the game."

But it was his electric punt returning skill that had scouts all fired up, and one of the primary reasons Patriots head ball coach and defacto general manager Bill Belichick selected Jones in the second round of the 2016 draft, thinking he had plenty of talent in his secondary to be able to bring Jones along slowly.

Things fell apart quickly for Jones, however, as he fumbled seven of the fourteen balls that he had a chance to field in the kicking game, and was so down that Belichick deactivated him for the final few games of the regular season and for all of the playoffs, causing Jones to remark that he felt like he didn't earn his Super Bowl ring.

"I'll never take credit for something that I feel I didn't contribute to." Jones was quoted saying in the Baltimore Sun. "I was part of the team, but I didn't feel part of it."

For his performance in his rookie season, Jones took a horrible beating from the Patriots' faithful, and he understands why. "What I did this year is not me. I don't care how anyone tries to sugar coat it." Jones continued, "Yes, I was a rookie, but I feel like I should be one of the best players on the field."

Jones didn't respond to the criticism on twitter, as Belichick most likely nixed his social media life after speaking to Alabama coach Nick Saban, who forbade his players to respond to insults by Ohio State players and fans prior to Alabama's playoff game at the end of Jones' senior season, and Jones still retaliated.

"Coach told us not to do it, but Cyrus did it anyway." Tide defensive back testified after that game. "I knew that he would, because that's the kind of person he is."

"Honestly, it was hell for me." Jones said of his rookie season, "I didn't feel like I deserved to be a part of anything that was happening with the team. I was embarrassed that these people probably felt that they wasted a pick on me."

"I honestly felt cursed. I reached a point where I didn't even want to play, I just didn't have it."

There were many in the media and in the fan base who took that as Jones giving up on himself - and maybe he did at that point - but Jones put to rest any of that talk by cancelling his entire itinerary for the offseason to dedicate himself to his craft, and to toughen up both in the gym and in his head.

The thing to remember when it comes to Jones is that up until three years ago, he had spent his entire football career catching balls, not swatting them away, and it wasn't until his senior season that he got much playing time at all, which means he's really only had one season of playing corner.  He knows that the learning curve is huge when faced with something like that.

But fans, sometimes they don't stop to think of the intangibles.  That is their entitlement for buying the ticket and taking the ride, but it also means that they are locked in to taking the good with the bad - but they can't turn back if things get too heavy.  That would make them fair-weather fans, which is something Jones addressed on Wednesday...

...and if his words hit a conscious nerve or two and works to offend fans, well, then that's the way things are these days, isn't it?

"I know what I play the game for. I know who I play the game for." Jones offered up in an impromptu interview at his locker, "The people out there saying this and that, that's not important to me. They're not my  teammates.  They're not my coaches. They're not my family. So, I mean, they really don't mean anything."

"They're fair-weather fans."

Do his words offend fans? Most likely, there are some - then there are some who won't like his brash demeanor, and there are some who will think he's garbage and always will be - but that's not what is happening in the locker room, and it's not what's happening on the field this preseason.  All you had to do is watch his teammate's reactions when he returned to the sidelines after a couple of promising punt returns last Saturday night...

...for which his coach offered up some praise afterwards, "I thought Cyrus did a good job in the return game" Belichick said, adding, "Ran hard, ran aggressively, made good decisions with and without the ball. I thought he did a nice job."

His teammates never gave up on him, nor did the coaches.  Certainly Jones didn't give up on himself, though he might have felt like it at points last season - and after a shaky first preseason game against Jacksonville, Jones had his best performance as a pro against the Texans and is seeking to expound upon that against the Detroit Lions on Friday night, when he hopes to continue his upward trend.

But don't expect him to be eagerly awaiting the approval of the fan base.

"All they're doing is watching, spectating, criticizing." Jones continued, "They're not Bill Belichick. They're not guys in this locker room. Those are the only people that matter when it comes to critiquing my play."

Jones' attitude smacks of a certain coach who loathes the media, and cares not what anyone says about him or his team, and Jones has that attitude down pat - and if you don't like it, that's fine with them.

Hi soliloquy echos what every professional athlete wants to say, but rarely does. Jones doesn't care what you or I think of him, he only cares what his coaches and teammates think and feel, and it's obvious that they all think highly of the second-year player.

Why? Because he has thick skin, and has brushed off opinions of his work in the media and social media and has concentrated on improving his craft - and if his words offend you or cause you to feel animosity towards him, then that's on you...

...because as a Patriots' fan, you bought your ticket and you take the ride - and if you jump off the bandwagon, well, Jones has let all of us know exactly how he feels about that. It's been building up inside him for the past year and when he finally got the opportunity to address it, he got his money's worth, and then some.

But at least he didn't take to twitter to retaliate.  That's so gauche these days..

"There is a progression of understanding vis-a-vis pro football that varies drastically with the factor of distance - physical, emotional, intellectual and every other way, which is exactly the way it should be." - Hunter S. Thompon

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