NASHVILLE – The past is prologue. That does not mean it is forgotten. Not for Julio Jones.
After 10 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, the Pro Bowl wide receiver still has to remind himself from time to time that he is a member of the Tennessee Titans. It happened Friday during his first media session of training camp when he said “Falcons” instead of “Titans” once. It also has come up in encounters with fans of his new team.
“Man, I sign stuff so much [and] I’m so used to putting ’11’ on so many things,” he said. “Now, I’m the deuce. I’m sorry. It’s been a whole decade, right? So, it happens.”
With Tennessee, which acquired him in June via a trade with Atlanta, Jones will wear the No. 2, the same one he wore during his three seasons at the University of Alabama (2008-10). He also will be part of an offense that features running back Derrick Henry and includes another Pro Bowl wide receiver, A.J. Brown, and he will be part of a team that has been to the playoffs three of the last four seasons.
Make no mistake, whatever the adjustment, there is no place he’d rather be.
“It’s been good, man,” he said. “Just the team. Coach [Mike] Vrabel, everything he’s done for me to make the transition so easy for me. My teammates here. The staff. I mean, everybody here is so welcoming.
“It feels like home. It’s not like you’re here and it’s like, ‘What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do?’ There’s so many people to help you understand the locker room, the facility. Just everything. So, the transition for me has been very, very easy.”
Even though he has a different locale, different teammates and a different number, the Titans hope the 32-year-old will be the same player he was for most of his time in Atlanta.
They want him to be the guy – or at least close to it – who three times led the NFL in receiving yards per game. The guy who topped 1,000 receiving yards seven times and twice topped the league in that category. The guy who demanded attention from opposing defenses and, therefore, created opportunities for others to produce as well.
They do not expect him to be just one of the guys.
“One thing I told him was that I am going to hold the best players the most accountable and hope they can then, in turn, do that to the rest of the team,” Vrabel said. “I have always said that, that is something we believe in, that is how I was coached and that is what I know.
“I just wanted to make sure he understood that, which he did. And that was something he was very comfortable with and we were able to have a conversation. All our conversations and everything that he has done since he has been a member of our team has been positive.”
If Jones can perform as expected, he will make an offense that was one of the NFL’s best in the red zone last season and ranked in the top 10 in yards per pass attempt and touchdown passes even more potent.
And the way he sees it, a fresh start is the perfect way to send the message to the rest of the NFL that his days are not a thing of the past.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to just showcase my skills, my ability, what I can do and what I bring to the game,” Jones said. “Like I said, I can’t talk enough about the organization and the team here. It’s just family right off the bat.
“You love football, and the way these guys come out here, they compete and just the team camaraderie here. For me being a veteran guy coming to a new organization, … I was blown away when I got here.”