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Always prepared to work

Posted Dec 27, 2011

In eighth NFL season, fullback Greg Jones remains one of league's best

Greg Jones said he doesn’t look outside himself for self-evaluation.

And when it comes to how he gauges his level of effectiveness, the Jaguars’ fullback certainly is past the point of worrying about post-season accolades.

So, while the eight-year veteran would very much like to be honored early Tuesday evening with what many around the Jaguars believe he long ago earned – his first Pro Bowl appearance – Jones said his self-concept won’t change much, either way. His self-confidence sure won’t, either.

“Sure, I would love to go, but if I don’t go, it ain’t going to stop me from being me,” Jones said as the Jaguars (4-11) prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts (2-13) in the 2011 regular-season finale at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

What Jones has been throughout his career is one of the NFL’s top fullbacks, a player critical to one of the league’s best running offenses.

That has been particularly true this season.

The Jaguars through 15 games rank 32nd in the NFL in total offense and passing offense, with the struggles in that area allowing opponents to stack defenses to stop running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Still, with one game remaining, Jones-Drew leads the NFL in rushing by 128 yards over LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia, and can become the first player from the NFL’s lowest-ranked offense to lead the NFL in rushing since Jamal Lewis did it in 2003 with Baltimore.

There are many reasons for the running success.  Jones-Drew. An offensive line that long has emphasized the area. But with defenses often playing eight and nine players at the line of scrimmage, Jones’ role as a lead blocker has been critical.

“You can ask around the league about Greg Jones and people are going to tell you he's the best fullback in the league, hands down,” Jones-Drew said recently. “Whoever goes against Greg Jones, 10 times out of 10 won't win, simple as that.”

Said Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker, “This is my third season (with the Jaguars) and there’s not a week that he’s in there that you can’t put on a tape and see him getting the job done at a high level - very, very consistent, very physical, a smart player.

“He knows the offense, knows where he’s supposed to be, knows what needs to get done and how to do it.”

Jones-Drew also is 136 yards from surpassing Fred Taylor’s franchise record of 1,572 yards set in 2003.

“It would mean a lot,” Jones said of the record and the rushing title. “We’ve had success running against a full-box count this season, but it is what it is. This has been the situation we’ve been in this year. We just have to go out and play. Mojo, the line – we have shown people we can do that.”

The nature of the fullback position is such that the top players at the spot are often overlooked, which is part of the reason Jones rarely receives national accolades. Tucker said Jones is in no way overlooked inside the organization, and called Jones “a pro’s pro.”

“He’s very respected in our locker room and he’s the type of player that you can win with,” Tucker said. “He’s the type of player that you’re looking for on a football team. He would fit in well on any team in the league, this year or any year, 25 years ago, he’s that type of player. He’s a football player, nose to the grindstone, shoe to shoe, belly button to belly button, nose to nose he’s going to be right there to get the job done – so a great player in my estimation.”

Jones, for his part, said he can live without the accolades.

“It is what it is,” Jones said. “I’m glad to see Mo get all these yards. Me and the O-line, we work hard. He works hard. 

Jones also said he agrees with many around the Jaguars that this season may be his best in the NFL, and he said the reason is simple. After missing the 2006 regular season and parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, he has played in every game each of the last two seasons.

“I always tell people, ‘If I can play a couple of years healthy back to back, then I can improve and show people how good I am,’’’ Jones said. “Right now, I have the chance of doing that. Last year was a good year and this year I’ve just tried to build off of it. I didn’t miss any time and steadily got better.”

And while Jones has been known as one of the most powerful backs in football since his days at Florida State, Jones said part of the reason for his NFL success and longevity is knowing it’s not always the most eye-catching hit that’s most effective.

“What people don’t realize is you have to understand the defense, and understand where a run is designed to go versus that defense, how the backers are fitting – a lot of things like that,” Jones said. “A lot of time it might not be a big hit. It might be a position block. A lot of people don’t understand that. Football, you have to use your head, too.

He added with a laugh, “It can’t just be about all muscles.”

Jones said he is smarter in that area than he was in perhaps his first season or two, and he was asked this week what the eight-year version of Jones would tell the rookie version.

He smiled, and said he has learned in nearly a decade in the NFL that the league is not about accolades and notoriety, or about reputation. Rather, Jones said, it’s about working and improving each season, something he said long has been a focus regardless of anyone noticing nationally.

“I’d tell him, ‘Come in and be prepared to work,’’’ he said. “ ’Don’t expect anything to be given to you.’ I see a lot of guys coming into this locker room and expect things to be given to them. Nothing is guaranteed around here. You have to work for it. If you think you should start or think you should play, you have to go out week to week and show people. That, and try to get better and better each year.

“You can’t be complacent. I think sometimes people play the game of football and they reach a certain level and get complacent. You have to get better.”

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