For a guy who wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of reporting to training camp without a new contract, Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones certainly seemed to enjoy himself during the practices he did participate in while the team was still training at State Farm Stadium.
He was full of energy and enthusiasm and almost never stopped smiling.
“His passion, it’s fun to be around,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said earlier during camp. “He lifts guys up and it’s every day, all day, whether he’s talking to the fans or the coaches or the players. He is a great guy to have on your team. Great attitude, smiles all day, every day, and it’s really important to our team.”
What was most important on Monday is that Jones finally rejoined his teammates on the practice field after missing nearly two weeks with an undisclosed injury. With training camp officially over, the Cardinals have relocated to their Tempe training facility to prepare for their Sept. 12 season opener at the Titans and having Jones back in the fold was a major plus.
“Awesome,” Kingsbury said Monday on what it was like to see Jones back on the practice field. “He brings a lot of juice. We know what type of player he is. We’re hoping it’s a blessing in disguise for him, feeling fresh, feeling healthy going into game week (next week).”
Kingsbury wouldn’t comment much on Jones’ contract situation other than saying, “He definitely has a chip on his shoulder,” but it’s worth noting because Jones reportedly asked the Cardinals for a trade at some point during the offseason. General Manger Steve Keim recently told The Republic that he will continue to have one-on-one conversations with Jones and his representatives but couldn’t promise that a new deal is imminent.
“Chandler is a guy we love, he has the respect of the guys in the locker room, and he’s a guy I personally would like to see finish as a Cardinal,” Keim said. “But you know how this business works. It’s not always that easy.”
Jones hasn’t been made available to reporters since suffering a torn biceps in Week 5 against the Jets and missing the remainder of the 2020 season. He reported to camp completely healthy, however, and looked to be in the best shape of his career.
It isn’t known if Jones is still actively seeking to be traded but judging from how happy he appeared to be in camp, it makes you wonder. His spirited personality was missed during his recent absence from the team.
In that regard, it’s a good thing the Cardinals have another lively, high-motor pass rusher on the opposite end of Jones in fellow starting outside linebacker Markus Golden.
“I’m going to bring it no matter what,” Golden said.
One week after having to place Jones on injured reserve, the Cardinals orchestrated a deal with the Giants to bring Golden back to Arizona in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round draft pick. Rejoining the Cardinals was ideal for Golden, who never wanted to leave in the first place.
He just wished he could have been able to play with Jones. When they first joined forces in 2016, Golden led the Cardinals with 12½ sacks. Jones finished second with 11. Jones would end up leading the league with 17 sacks the following season and had a career-high 19 sacks in 2019.
“Chandler, man, that’s the goat,” Golden said. “That’s one of the best players to ever play in the NFL. I’ve been playing with Chandler since my second year on the league, so I’ve learned a lot from Chandler and I’m excited to be able to get out there and hunt with him.
“We’ve had some great seasons together so to be able to have the opportunity to really get out there and play with him again, you’ve got to make sure you take advantage of it. When we did play together, we wreaked havoc so it’s the same thing this year. We’re coming for you. Any quarterback back there, we’re coming for you.”
Asked how many sacks he thinks he and Jones can combine to make as a duo this season, Golden smiled and said, “A lot. A lot.”
“I don’t want to put a number on it because you never know,” he said. “But a lot. A lot. We should get a lot.”
The unofficial record for the most combined sacks by two teammates is 39, set in 1989 by the Vikings’ Chris Doleman and Keith Millard. Doleman led the league that season with 21 sacks. Millard finished with 18. That’s probably too many sacks to expect Jones and Golden to collect, but it’s a target to shoot for, nonetheless.
And don’t forget. They’ll be joined this year by defensive end J.J. Watt, the former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who twice has reached the 20-sack mark in a season.
“You add in J.J., you add in all the other guys, we’re coming, man,” Golden said.
Whatever the sack numbers end up being, Kingsbury knows he’s going to get the most out of the Cardinals’ entire pass-rushing group. It’s a bonus, he said, that Golden, Jones and Watt, particularly, are so outgoing and such natural-born vocal leaders.
“It definitely makes an impact,” Kingsbury said, adding of Golden, “You can hear him chirping the entire practice and if he sees somebody that’s not bringing the same intensity to a drill or practice, he’ll let them know and he backs it up.
“I think that’s what the guys respect about him; it’s not just talk. He’s gonna bring it every single drill, everything he does, every single day.”
Left tackle D.J. Humphries mentioned that Monday when he was asked how nice it was to see Jones back at practice and full of energy just like Golden.
“I’m always excited when I see Chandler on the field,” Humphries said. “We kind of have this thing where we feed off each other – me, him and Markus. We give each other energy and when one of us is down, we kind of pick each other up you know with that competition.
“Because you know, either you’re going to come out here and compete or one of us is going to be embarrassed. It was fun to see him out here today.”
Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch.
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