Monday, January 28, 2002

Bengal reject headed to Super Bowl

Jones starts, plays well in NFC CHampionship

The Associated Press

        ST. LOUIS — Offensive lineman Rod Jones was teary-eyed as he glanced around the rocking Edward Jones Dome following Sunday's game.

        First, offensive line coach Jim Hanifan hugged him. Then Jackie Slater, who spent two decades playing right tackle for the Rams and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, threw his arms around him and whispered in his ear.

        “I told him I was very proud of him,” Slater said.

        And why not? Jones, a free-agent pickup after he wasn't re-signed by the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason, left the Rams early in training camp, intending to quit. Coach Mike Martz talked him back.

        On Sunday, Jones started in place of the injured Ryan Tucker at right tackle, moved to left tackle for several plays when Orlando Pace sprained his knee in the first quarter, then moved back to the right side when Pace returned later in the game.

        Despite all the switching, Jones didn't give up a sack and helped open some of the holes that allowed Marshall Faulk to run for 159 yards. Jones said he might not have been in football if Martz hadn't showed confidence in him and allowed about a monthlong sabbatical from training camp in Macomb, Ill.

        “I was burned out,” said Jones, who said he took it hard when the Bengals let him go. “I was just burned out spiritually and psychologically. Coach Martz said, 'I'm not going to let you go.”' This is payback. They had enough confidence in me to keep me around.”


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