The NFL’s Instagram account, sometime on Saturday, posted a video of a player who was once a Scouting Combine star. His name is Byron Jones and the NFL’s post read in part that his “record-setting broad jump in 2015 was CRAZY.”
Yeah, craaaazy. Now? Not so much. How far Jones jumped, or what else he did in that combine, is irrelevant for the moment because what the NFL did with that post, almost certainly unwittingly, was emphasize a point Jones would make on the same day, in his own social media post. Jones’ message, however, was dramatically different from the NFL’s.
What Jones did was caution younger players, men about to get poked and prodded and measured at the combine just like he was, about the realities—hell, the nightmares—of NFL life and how playing the sport can destroy the body. No matter how far a player can jump, run and bench press, it’s not immune to the physical stressors the NFL causes. Strength doesn’t stop ligaments from tearing or muscles from snapping or brains from concussing.
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This isn’t a new message, but it remains an important one, particularly since the combine starts this coming week, and there will be hundreds of players hoping to do what Jones did, which is get drafted and start their NFL lives.
Jones is reminding these young men of the cruelty of the NFL life they seek, and how participating in it can possibly leave you debilitated.
Jones isn’t asking anyone to feel sorry for him or the players. He’s only making sure players, and to some degree the public, know what is happening.
What did Jones, a cornerback on the Miami Dolphins, say exactly? Jones explained that he can’t run or jump because of the injuries he incurred playing seven years in the NFL.
Jones is just 30.
After the Instagram post by the NFL, Jones, on Twitter, took a separate NFL post, this one the league posted on Twitter in 2015 about his jump, and offered an important cautionary note.
“Much has changed in 8 years. Today I can’t run or jump because of my injuries sustained playing this game,” Jones wrote. “DO NOT take the pills they give you. DO NOT take the injections they give you. If you absolutely must, consult an outside doctor to learn the long-term implications.”
“It was an honor and privilege to play in the NFL but it came at a regrettable cost I did not foresee,” Jones wrote. “In my opinion, no amount of professional success or financial gain is worth avoidable chronic pain and disabilities. Godspeed to the draft class of 2023.”
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ESPN reported that Jones isn’t expected to retire.
We don’t know exactly what injuries Jones is talking about. What we do know is he’s had surgery to fix a damaged Achilles, and he also had ankle injuries. Jones was on the physically unable to perform list for the entire 2022 season.
We also don’t know exactly what “pills” or “injections” he’s referring to. Though it seems likely he’s talking about pain-killing medication.
Jones isn’t soft (as I’m sure some players and fans will call him) or whining (expect that, too). He’s doing something we need more of. He’s telling the truth about life in the league.
We need more people like Jones, not fewer; we need more transparency in the NFL, not less.
Many of us will be watching the combine and seeing who “rises up draft boards” (though that remains the most overrated phrase in the history of the NFL). You’ll see mock drafts. You’ll see guys running and jumping.
This is what we saw Jones do. For now, at least, he says he can’t do those things. Eight years ago, he could. Just eight. That’s all.
“Godspeed to the draft class of 2023.”
From one former combine star to a future one.