Greg Jones' football career begs the question: What if he had been able to avoid injury?
At one point in his career at Florida State, just before his first serious knee injury, he was considered to be the top running back prospect in the country. There was talk of him entering the NFL draft following his junior year and had it not been for the knee injury that followed, he might've been a top 10 pick the following spring.
It took him more than two years to recover from his first knee reconstruction. He rushed his recovery for his senior season at Florida State and didn't completely regain his quickness until his third training camp with the Jaguars. Then came a second serious knee injury, in the summer of 2006, just as he was dominating camp with his speed and power. It was an injury that brought his head coach to tears as he told reporters Jones was done for the season.
Now, in his seventh pro season, Jones finds himself battling back from another surgery, trying to regain his quickness one more time, and the new question is: Will he ever be the back he could've been?
"I think about it sometimes when I'm working out. What if I didn't have a second knee injury? What if I didn't have a first? You can't play that game with yourself," Jones said on Monday, after participating in practice for the first time since sustaining a season-ending ankle injury against the Dolphins late last season when Maurice Jones-Drew ran up Jones' back.
The injury demanded another surgery and another winter dedicated to rehab from surgery. Monday, he left the ranks of the "rehab team" and stepped back into the huddle, but he's a long way from being all the way back.
"Not yet," Jones said. "I didn't start running until a month ago. These next couple of months are important to me."
The goal now may not be the same as it was when the Jaguars drafted him. Then, he was to be a fullback that would double as a running back. In the summer of '06, with his speed and quickness clearly evident, Jones was on his way to sharing carries with Fred Taylor. The second knee injury ended that and opened the door for Jones-Drew to become the back most thought Jones could become.
Can Jones make it all the way back and regain his status as one of the league's best blocking fullbacks? It's the more realistic goal now.
"When Greg is on the field and healthy, he's one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league. Greg's been a man when he's been able to stay on the field and be healthy. We just need him to stay healthy," coach Jack Del Rio said on Monday.
The Jaguars resumed OTA practices following a one-week break. Wide receiver Mike Thomas and rookie defensive end Austen Lane also returned to action.
"We avoided the rain," Del Rio said of having moved the start of practice up and hour. "The effort and the energy have been really good. We just need to see the sharpening."
The intensity spilled over into a post-play skirmish between defensive lineman Walter Curry and offensive lineman Paul McQuistan on the final play of practice. Peace was quickly restored.
"Clearly, with our schedule, we're going to need a fast start. We must play well early to get that done," Del Rio said in explaining the need for an intense approach to OTAs. "We're a young, athletic team right now that has strengthened. We're not deep."