With Triniti keeping a close eye, Adam Jones signs an Antonio Brown jersey.
KAHUKU, HI - As the crowd screeched with delight, Adam Jones took the Antonio Brown jersey he had been asked to sign and raced the other way back on to the practice field as he chased down redemption here in his first Pro Bowl at the tender age of 32.
Of course, he came back to the rope line. The crowd laughed and chanted his name and he had a smile bigger than 12 wins. And as he bent over to sign the dreaded yellow shirt, Triniti Alexandra, now five years old and lugging a Pro Bowl helmet that is bigger than her at birth, hugged his leg.
"You're the best Pacman," yelled one of Saturday's autograph seekers, since for the second straight day Jones stayed the longest of any of the Pro Bowlers under the blistering Island sun to sign and sign. On Saturday, a lady wearing a Steelers hat gave him a box of Hawaiian chocolates.
"You're not trying to poison me are you?" he asked.
These two have come a long way, haven't they?
Triniti was not quite two pounds when she was born in a sudden catastrophe during Adam's first training camp with the Bengals when his rebirth was just as fragile and new. His wife Tish's water broke at 23 weeks and their hearts were broken until Triniti's second of four months in the hospital and they said she was going to get out of the incubator.
"The first month they said be strong and keep praying," Tish recalled Saturday as she led a legion of family and friends watching her husband sign. "After that second month they said you're not going to have to worry about her. This one here, she's a strong one . . . It was something, OK, everything changes, everything shuts down. Reality kicks in."
If you want to gauge how far he has come on and off the field in those five years, match it with the robust little girl he once held in the palm of his hand hauling that helmet. How he went from Roger Goodell's post office wall filled with off-field legal problems to, well, this week trying to keep up with her and nine-year-old Zaniyah.
"This is a moment in our household we knew would come. We're extremely proud," Tish Jones said. "I'm extremely proud to have as a husband a man who complements my father and the way me and my sister were raised."
Getting a penalty on the last play of a play-off game? That's nothing.
"I think that's the toughest thing I ever had to go through," Adam Jones said Saturday. "Seeing my girl in all those tubes. . . . I knew I had to get myself right."
In the never-ending Adam Jones debate of perception vs. reality, the reality is this heading into Sunday's Pro Bowl (7 p.m.-ESPN) at Aloha Stadium. The artist formerly known as Pacman is a Hawaiian hit as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Finally. Deservedly. Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth has heard it.
"A lot of guys here that have met him and spent time with him have said, 'When I hear you guys say that's just people trying to portray Adam a certain way, I get it now, just being around him,'" said Whitworth, who swept up Jones in his arms this week when he first saw him because he knew how much this week meant to him.
"I've had multiple Pro Bowl guys come up to me and say, 'I've got a whole new view of Adam Jones now.'"
During Saturday's Irvin team practice, Whitworth conspired with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman to bust Jones.
It was, of all things, during a punt pantomime with Jones positioned as a gunner. With Sherman's help, Whitworth launched Jones' feet off the ground and for a brief second Whitworth carried Jones in his arms for the second time this week and when he put him down Sherman was smiling and high-fiving Whitworth with "Thanks, Whit."
"We wanted to put a vice out there. Darrin Simmons taught me well. I've watched enough special teams meetings," Whitworth said with a straight face. "(Sherman) thanked me for helping wrap him, up. We always like having an extra guy. Like when (the offensive line) has slide protection."
Adam Jones sets up a selfie with Colton and Kristin Tierney.
It turns out Jones found out he has a new fan in Sherman, regarded as the No. 1 cover corner in the league. For one thing Sherman greeted Jones this week with, "They finally let him in. That's great you're getting the recognition you should have had."
Take in the sights of the Pro Bowl including the Draft and the first practice.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Stewart/NFL
"What's nice," Jones said, "is hearing what guys really feel about different players."
With his peers, the last play of the Wild Card Game hasn't marred his best season. The play the NFL admitted it blew.
Jones shouldn't have gone after Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter and picked up a 15-yard penalty that gave Pittsburgh a chip-shot-field-goal-win. But then, of course, Porter shouldn't have been on the field in the Bengals' huddle, provoking it all the only way Joey Porter's yap can, and it should have been off-setting penalties and … well ….
"I think that play is symbolic of Adam Jones," said his agent, Peter Schaffer, one of those who helped him rise from the ashes, as he watched the rope-line scene.
"He would take a bullet for a teammate. That last play was not about Adam. It is the fact that Adam would protect his teammates. And they know it."
Sure, Schaffer's teen-age son Gavin had a pass swinging around his neck that identified him as Adam Jones' guest. And, yes, as he looked at his son Schaffer said, "He's my only client who sends Christmas gifts to my kids without fail every year."
But there are others also talking about the Adam Jones perception vs. reality this week. Go right to Raiders rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. Everyone remembers the season ending with the Porter play, but the year began in Oakland when Jones bounced Cooper's head off the turf after a play they both went at each other, cordoning off their turf in the opener in a snap producing one of the two unnecessary roughness calls Jones got this season.
"Pac is a guy I watched growing up. Always one of the top corners (making plays) on ESPN," Cooper said after a practice for Team Rice this week. "I think people made it more than it was. To me, it was just a football play. Football is about emotions and physicality and that's what you expect when you compete against guys. I never had any hard feelings. I definitely understood."
Cooper and Jones hooked up this week to chat, just like he did with former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis, one of the best analysts the NFL Network has to offer.
"The perception is reality. We all know that," Davis said. "Even after you build up all that goodwill and one thing happens, they're going to say, 'Oh, look, that's who he is,'" Davis said. "That's not who he is. That's not who he is. The heat of the moment. I get it. We all get frustrated. A bitter rivalry. Everyone wants to get over the hump. You want to go to the next level and things are said and done on the field that we all know is not who that player is. Who that person is. I know the guy. You know the guy. That's not who he is."
Darren Perry, the former Bengals assistant coach now with the Packers staff overseeing Jones and his mates out here, mentioned something to Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers this week. Perry never got to know Jones until now.
Hail, hail, the gang is all here. Wife. Kids. In-laws. Agent's dad and son. Friends. (That's Triniti in helmet.).
"Sometimes if you're not careful, what you see on TV isn't really what that person is," Perry said, listing his own first impressions. "Sometimes a little brash. A guy maybe misunderstood at times not being a team player. Maybe a guy not in control. But totally unfair. Totally unfair when you see a guy's heart in the right place."
Davis and Perry back up what Jones' coaches have been saying the last few years. The guy is a high-tech student of the game, a Pro Bowl brew of an old head and young legs. Davis says Jones "sees the chessboard now." Perry got set straight in the first meeting of the week when Jones asked him about technique.
It was almost like, Perry thought, that Jones was just letting him know, hey, I know a little bit about this game, too. How do you want to play it, Coach?
"You love that as a coach. How these guys come in and learn film study," Perry said. "Just having a chance to talk with him, you can tell he has a very high football IQ . . . I told him, 'Pac, you look like you did when you came out of West Virginia (11 years ago).' He told me, 'I learned to take a pound off every year and keep learning.'"
Jones smiles. If he had been Adam Jones and not Pacman Jones 11 years ago when he was the sixth pick in the draft, how many Pro Bowls would this be?
"If you ask me, you know I'd say probably all ten," he said. "But I don't think about that."
Just like the Porter penalty. And he's not absolving himself of blame.
"I've said what I had to say and that's it. I'm done with it," he said, although not done enough to realize some things. "The only thing I can do now is do what I can control. Keep my composure. Work hard every day. Stay out of the way and let the process handle itself."
If it sounds like he's been talking to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, he has. Every day, he says. And, yes, he thinks he's talked to Antonio Brown once since apologizing to him for saying he faked a concussion on the last play and it sounds like they're OK
But he couldn't control that on Saturday. So Jones got ready like it was a real game even while the Pro Bowl gets bashed this week for all the no-shows and how it's a game on life support.
Jones bounded off the bus Saturday in his pre-game head sets and raced the length of the field while everybody else lolled around in sun hats only working to find shade. He stopped to sign a few autographs at the far end and then turned around and raced back before stretching as he bounced to the music.
He could give a damn he is here as the seventh alternate, since everyone knows he should have been here in the first place and should have been here last year as, at the very least, a returner.
"I'm just trying to get some kind of mindset for a game," Jones said. "I've been enjoying the festivities since we got here, I just want to make sure my body's ready. This is a great milestone in my career. I've been through a lot of things and to get the recognition after putting in all this work, at the end of the day, regardless how I got here, I'm happy to be here and I'm humbled."
Schaffer isn't one of the unnamed agents ripping the Pro Bowl. He'll put his name to this:
"You know what it's like to get a phone call and hear, 'We're going to Hawaii? The unadulterated joy you could hear in Adam's voice and Tish's voice. Great memories. Great experiences. Anyone who rips the Pro Bowl hasn't gotten a phone call saying, 'We're going to Hawaii.'"
Adam Jones' biggest kick here is seeing the players with their families. But he's making it a big week for other families, too. Like on the rope line Friday and there was a baby Bengal in his mother's arms. He was Colton Tierney; a year and a half old whose dad Patrick is in the army and comes from just over the bridge from Paul Brown Stadium in Villa Hills, Ky. Jones made sure he signed and then arranged a selfie with Colton and mom Kristin.
"We're fans," she said. "He's just awesome."
He's got a lot of those around here this week. Especially Tish. There would be no golf on Saturday afternoon.
"Even if you guys golf for nine holes, that's the whole day," Tish said to Jones and Schaffer.
So horseback riding it was for Triniti and Zaniyah.
"My whole thing was," he said, "I wanted to spoil her if she was going to go through all this."
Maybe family did say it best. They were all over the place Saturday. His mother. Grandmother. Mother-in-law. But this guy is also player, too. His cousin, Miami safety Reshad Jones, also a member of Team Irvin.
"He's a family man. He just takes care of his business. He's converted all the way over," Reshad Jones said. "But he's still Adam Jones. But he's a different guy."