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Life's Challenges Helped a Young Tackle Prepare for the Pres


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Life's Challenges Helped a Young Tackle Prepare for the Pressures of a Starting Role

By KAREN CROUSE

Published: August 3, 2005

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Aug. 2 - The worrywarts eye Adrian Jones warily, as if he's a weak spot on the Jets' offensive line that could be punctured by pressure, causing a spinout of Mike Heimerdinger's high-octane offense.

Jones, in his second year out of the University of Kansas, is the patch for a hole at right tackle left by the off-season departure of Kareem McKenzie to the Giants. Naysayers and opposing defensive ends should know that Jones is remarkably resilient.

"I try not to worry about what people on the outside are thinking," Jones said Tuesday after a morning practice in pads. "I know that I've overcome something harder than football."

In 1999, during Thanksgiving weekend of his first year at Kansas, Jones was returning to the Lawrence campus from Dallas, his hometown, accompanied by his older brother Christopher and Derick Mills, a fellow Jayhawk. On the Kansas Turnpike near Emporia, the 1993 Honda Accord that Jones was driving blew a tire and rolled over twice.

Just before the accident, Jones had unfastened his seatbelt and wriggled out of his sweater because he was warm. That is the last thing he remembers. Jones was ejected from the vehicle and thrown 50 feet. He landed headfirst on the pavement.

He recalls looking up and seeing a police officer's face before everything went black. Jones was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and spent three days in the intensive-care unit with a bruise on the left side of his brain and a severe concussion. His doctors warned that he might not be able to play football again.

He shrugged off their words the way he shrugs off a missed block.

"As a football player you learn that if something bad happens, you've just got to shake it off and get ready for the next play," said Jones, who recovered in time to see limited action as a redshirt freshman.

Jones played tight end for the Jayhawks his first three seasons. But in the spring of his junior year, Jones's resilience was again tested when he was moved to offensive tackle.

"It was kind of rough at first," Jones, 24, said of the switch. "Once I got used to the position and got settled in it was fine."

Jones, a fourth-round draft pick, played in 14 games last year, primarily on special teams. His challenge during training camp is to blend in with left tackle Jason Fabini, left guard Pete Kendall and center Kevin Mawae, who all have at least seven years of experience, and third-year right guard Brandon Moore, who started 13 games last season.

"I think when you play on the end of a line, a lot of times you're on an island by yourself," Mawae, a 12th-year veteran, said.

"The biggest thing is that Adrian's got great speed and great athletic ability," he added. "He knows all the assignments and he's doing a pretty good job."

Working with the first team in the afternoon practice, Jones was spun around a few times by defensive end Shaun Ellis. It did not faze him. He has come too far to be discouraged. "After the accident, I wasn't sure I'd play football again," Jones said. "When I was switched from tight end to tackle, I didn't think I'd have a shot at the N.F.L."

But here he is, on the verge of becoming a starter for a team that could be playing deep into January.

"I think mentally he prepared himself for it," Coach Herman Edwards said, "and now physically he has to go through it.

"What is good for him is our defense. They give him so many different looks that he is going to have seen everything before we start the regular season."

EXTRA POINTS

Defensive back James Taylor, who hurt his knee in practice Monday and may require surgery, was waived Tuesday. ... Cornerbacks Pete Hunter and Ray Mickens and safety Jon McGraw are nicked up. ... With the health of the secondary suddenly a primary concern, the Jets on Tuesday signed cornerbacks Brandon Haw and Roosevelt Williams. The team also signed linebacker Eric Mahl

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