Jordan Reed, Trent Williams and Matt Jones all showed Tuesday for the start of the Redskins’ mandatory two-day mini-camp. So did the other 87 players on the roster, but that was also the case for the previous three weeks worth of voluntary practices. The tight end, left tackle and running back did not.
Reed, Washington’s top receiving playmaker, and Williams, arguably the best at his position league-wide, were working out elsewhere and without controversy. They are 2017 focal points. Jones, the Week 1 starting running back last season, isn’t anymore. That’s why he stayed away and why he and his agent spent time working out an escape plan.
In two seasons Jones went from a third-round draft pick by former general manager Scot McCloughan to starter to a fumbling back-bencher for the final games of the regular season. No playing time is brutal. Not having a job is next level disaster. That’s the reality Jones faces in Washington heading into 2017. That’s why he made a stand by not showing.
"We put a plan together, me and my agent," Jones told reporters Tuesday when asked about the decision for skipping Organized Team Activities (OTA). "Just trying to weigh my options."
In reality, his options are limited. Holding out further would send a message – and lead to fines for missing the mandatory practices.
"Even though it was mandatory, I was going to show up just to be out here with the boys, part of the team," Jones said about why he returned.
Jones and his agent can try pressuring the Redskins for his outright release. Ideally, he’d be with another team before training camps kick off in late July. Good luck with that.
There’s no incentive from the Redskins end. Robert Kelley, Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine likely form the RB trio next season, but injuries happen. Mack Brown has the inside track if they keep four because of his work on special teams, an area where Jones is a true novice. “That’s something I’ve got to get into,” he admitted.
Jones is the backup to the backup plan.
"It’s not a secret anymore," Jones said of his odd-man-out status.
Coach Jay Gruden heaped praise on the other running backs, including Keith Marshall, when discussing where Jones fits.
“It’s really a tough position to crack, but I wouldn’t put anything past Matt,” Gruden said with ample skepticism.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder entered 2016 as the lead back. Alfred Morris was in Dallas. No clear competition existed. Sure, Jones revealed a penchant for fumbling as a rookie, but the job was his. Through seven games he averaged 4.6 yards on 99 carries. Jones also coughed the ball up three times including during as Week 7 loss at Detroit.
“Ball security is job security,” Jones quipped. “That’s something I’ve got to correct. That’s something I must correct if I want to play for a long time and stay in this league.”
By Week 8 Kelley assumed lead back duties.
“A good start to the season and then it kind of went south,” Jones said.
The Florida native worked out in his home state while he stayed away from Redskins Park. Jones also spent a chunk of the offseason with former Redskins running back Earnest Byner. Those tutoring sessions included motivational talks, pad level focus for the bigger than average runner and holding onto to that football.
“It’s football, it’s life,” Jones said when presented with his role reversal over the last year. “You’ve got to deal with it. You take the good with the bad. That’s what I’m doing. Keeping my head high still and keep grinding.”
For now, Jones is holding that head high in Ashburn. Barring a trade or release, he’ll be expected in Richmond when the Redskins open training camp on July 27. Barring the unforeseen, he isn’t likely on the Week 1 roster.
My, have things changed. They’re just not changing quick enough now for Jones and his agent. That’s not a secret anymore.