It has been a productive offseason for Arizona Cardinals All-Pro outside linebacker Chandler Jones, despite the inability to conduct on-field work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Jones and his Cardinals teammates have not been able to practice the traditional way — instead relying on 'Zoom' and other forms of internet meetings during the NFL Virtual Period — the outside linebacker has achieved other feats during the lockdown.
Last month, Jones was officially named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000-2010 due to his league-leading numbers in sacks (96) and forced fumbles (27) since the beginning of his career in 2012 with the New England Patriots and subsequent trade to the Cardinals.
"That All-Decade was major," Jones said on Tuesday. "Just to be recognized with some of those names was the biggest thing. My name being up there with J.J. Watt, Julius Peppers, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, those names are names that when I was early in my career, I would look at those guys. When I look at the individual accolades, I would see those guys' names. I'm just like, 'Those are the top guys.' So, in order for me to be mentioned with those players, it's definitely an honor."
That was not all Jones had to celebrate, however. Earlier this week, he earned his degree in Human Development and Family Sciences from Syracuse and reportedly participated in a virtual graduation celebration on Sunday.
"Even though I haven't used my degree as of yet, I'm pretty sure it will definitely come in handy when I'm done playing football," Jones said. "That's the reason why I went back after eight, nine years of being out of college. I think that's very important. My kids can look back at that and say, 'My dad graduated.' So, I'm happy. It's a huge accomplishment for our family. It hangs right up there with that Super Bowl ring.
"I didn't have that degree, what, nine years out of leaving college. And I finally said, 'You know what? I need to finish it.'"
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury continues to be in awe of Jones. Not just as a football player, but for the decisions he has made off the field and as the man he has become. The Pro Bowl linebacker also donated 150,000 meals to families in the Arizona and Endicott, New York, areas during the crisis.
"Chandler just continues to amaze, really," Kingsbury said. "You look at the production on the field: All-Decade team; most sacks since he's come into the league. The leadership he brings; he's always positive. What he's done in the community; I saw the 150,000 meals in New York and here. That's just who he is, day in and day out. He's smiling, he's excited to be there, he's working his tail off. I think it was something that was near and dear to his heart, and his family's, for him to get his degree. I couldn't be more excited for him."
That attitude is illustrated by what Jones said Tuesday when asked about dealing with the pandemic and whether it is at all terrifying. He said, "Throughout this whole process, throughout this whole pandemic, I've been trying to approach it with the whole glass half full as opposed to half empty. So opposed to looking at the negative things that it may cause, I’ve tried to highlight always, even to my family and friends, I always try to highlight the positive things or what we can do to be better.
"You try to motivate them, encourage them, stay busy, stay connected, do stuff, work out. Yes, times are tough right now, but at the same time, I feel like you just have to approach it with a positive mindset.”