Julio Jones heard the doubters.
Not long after the Tennessee Titans traded for the star wide receiver, some brought up his age (32), while others pointed to his injury history, including a hamstring ailment that shortened his 2020 season.
Jones, during his first press conference as a Titan on Thursday afternoon, spoke most passionately about these subjects. He wants Titans fans and others outside of the fan base to know that his prime has not yet passed him by.
“At the end of the day, I believe in me,” Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowler, said. “I know what I have left in the tank.”
Plenty of notable wide receivers have performed consistently deep into their 30s.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is, perhaps, the best example. He led the league in receiving at ages 32 and 33 with the San Francisco 49ers. The 13-time Pro Bowler had four 1,000-yard seasons after those two seasons, including at ages 39 and 40 (both with the Oakland Raiders).
Derrick Mason is another receiver who continued to post more than respectable numbers with age. He had four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Titans before signing with the Baltimore Ravens at age 32 (2005). He had four 1,000-yard seasons in his six seasons with the Ravens.
A more recent example is longtime Arizona Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald, who currently is a free agent. He went over 1,000 yards at ages 32, 33 and 34. In each of those three seasons, the future Hall of Famer had at least 100 catches and six touchdowns. He led the league in receptions at age 33 with 107.
“We are talking about age. … I am 32,” Jones said. “I am young. In football, you can say that’s old. But you either do it or you don’t. This game doesn’t change for me. I am still fast. I am still strong.”
At age 31 last season, Jones would have almost certainly gone over 1,000 for a seventh consecutive season if it weren’t for the hamstring issue. In the nine games he did appear in, he caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns. He had more yards than the No. 1 wide receiver on plenty of teams.
“To the games last year, I had an issue that I didn’t take enough time to heal properly,” Jones said. “That was just my decision on going out there and playing. There are no excuses and things like that.”
Jones made it clear that he’s not a stat guy. Of course, there is plenty for him to talk about in that regard. He is one of the most productive wide receivers in the history of the sport. He’s currently the all-time leader in yards per game with 95.5.
Above all, he wants to win.
“In previous years, everybody is always asking me, ‘what do you think you’re going to do, what’s your prediction,’” he said. “I have never been a stat guy. I am a team guy.”
But he does want those who have doubted him to know that he’s betting on himself to go big once again.
“I will be ready to go,” Jones said. “For those who question my health and things like that (age), just stay tuned.”