NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Julio Jones turned 32 in February, missed seven games with a nagging hamstring issue in his 10th year in the NFL and now finds himself with a new team in the Tennessee Titans.
The seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver had a message Thursday for anyone doubting him.
“I know what I have in the tank,” Jones said. “And we talking about age is 32. Like I’m young, like in football you can say it's old, but you either do it or you don’t. This game don’t change for me. I’m still fast and still strong.”
Jones explained he missed seven games in 2020 with Atlanta because he didn't take time to properly heal and it was his decision to keep playing.
“For those who question my health and things like that, just stay tuned,” Jones said.
Jones was on the field Thursday for the Titans' organized team activity Thursday after a very busy week. The Atlanta Falcons traded Jones on Sunday to Tennessee for a second-round draft pick in 2022 and a fourth-round selection in 2023.
The receiver flew to Nashville to take a physical and finalize the deal. Tennessee also had to rework quarterback Ryan Tannehill's contract to clear space for Jones' $15.3 million contract. Jones went back to Atlanta, picked up some things and returned to Nashville on Wednesday night.
He's also had dinner with Tannehill as the veterans started to get to know one another.
On Thursday, Tannehill's first throw in a passing drill went to Jones, and they worked together during special teams periods.
Coach Mike Vrabel said everyone's “unquestionably excited” about the addition of Jones. Timing of the trade allowed Jones to join the Titans in time for one session on the field before next week's minicamp that caps the offseason.
“We have to get to work,” Vrabel said. “We got to put the work in. And that’s what it comes down to in this business. It’s not about what you’ve done. It’s about what you’re willing to do and what you will do. And I'm confident that Julio has begun that process.”
Fitting into the Titans' locker room shouldn't be much of an issue. Jones already knew Derrick Henry, a Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama where Jones also played for coach Nick Saban. The receiver has hung out and talked regularly with wide receiver A.J. Brown.
Jones noted the Titans enjoy a college-like atmosphere with fans supporting players unconditionally, a feel that he's already noticed in his short time with Tennessee.
“Just feel like when I was in college, you know, at the University of Alabama,” Jones said. “It’s amazing here.”
He's also as excited to play with Brown, a Pro Bowl receiver in 2020 in his second season. Brown had been campaigning on social media for Jones to join the Titans.
“It’s definitely mutual,” Jones said.
Jones has averaged 95.5 yards receiving per game through 135 games, tops in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss (15.6) averaged more yards per catch than Jones (15.2) among NFL players with at least 848 receptions.
Jones set Atlanta records with 848 catches for 12,896 yards, and his 60 touchdowns ranked second. He had a career-best 136 catches for 1,871 yards in 2015. That hamstring injury snapped a streak of six straight seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving.
Adding Jones bumps Josh Reynolds, signed to a one-year deal in March, to the No. 3 receiver. Reynolds said it was easy to notice Jones' presence on the field as a “freak athlete.” Jones also was coaching up the other receivers with technique tips.
“We can just tell his mindset coming in is win games and whoever’s out there, like, plays," Reynolds said.
Jones is wearing No. 2 after using No. 11 in Atlanta. The wide receiver explained how he settled on the new number. Brown offered up his No. 11, which Jones rejected as he starts a “new chapter.” With Tannehill wearing No. 17 and Henry, the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, in No. 22, Jones wanted to have fun.
“You’re going to have to deal with us, all four of us actually,” Jones.
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