Bengals get up and Adam to 1-1

Adam Jones eludes Browns defenders on his way to an 81-yard punt return for a score.


It took cornerback Adam Jones just 1:47 into Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener to get the beleaguered Bengals special teams a shot of game-long adrenaline and just 22 seconds from the time Browns punter Reggie Hodges received the snap.

That's how long it took for Jones to make five to seven Browns miss him, depending on whom you think actually had a shot at him during his 81-yard punt return for the touchdown that gave the Bengals the upper hand in a game that easily could have changed hands during their 34-27 victory.

But in a relieved locker room, Jones refused to say his first return touchdown in six years was the punctuation of his long journey. From NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's Most Wanted List through a canyon of injury and doubt that ended Sunday with throwing the ball down in the end zone and scaling a goal post.

"I don't want to get into all that," said Jones, who has been plagued with a herniated neck disc and a series of pulled hamstring and leg muscles since he signed with the Bengals in 2010. "I'm just looking ahead."

It was a sweet end to a tumultuous week for the Bengals special teams. They ended up scoring a touchdown while holding the great Josh Cribbs to one punt return for nine yards and six kick returns in which he didn't reach his 37-yard line.

"I think one of the last things Darrin (Simmons) told the special teams," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. " 'Why is everybody worried about Cribbs when they have to stop us?' And Adam made that sure right away."

It is a sign, the Bengals hope, of their depth. It certainly is an example of their abilities to buffet challenges and adversity.

"We've got a lot of good players," said de facto special teams captain Dan Skuta.

And they were all needed.

On Tuesday, the day special teams coach Darrin Simmons informed Jones he would be returning Sunday for the first time in a game since Oct. 30 in Seattle, Simmons had to go into the hospital with a serious blood infection.

He got back for Thursday's practice, just in time to see WILL backer Thomas Howard end his season with an ACL tear and his scrimmage snaps going to potentially three of Simmons's core players in Skuta, Vincent Rey and rookie Vontzae Burfict.

Simmons is still steamed about missing Wednesday's practice.

"It was terrible," he said of not being there.

Jones shook his head after the game.

"The man could even hardly walk yesterday," Jones said, "and there he was with us today coaching throughout the game."

Not only that, on Saturday night Jones went to Simmons and told him he felt sick before he ended up taking an IV before the game.

"It's nice to have a veteran group. You don't have to tell us too much," Skuta said. "We kind of know the way and know how to play different things. I think we took (Burfict) off a few things so he could play more defense."

Rey, who played just two snaps from scrimmage since arriving from Duke as a free agent in 2010 before playing about 30 Sunday, went double duty. He had six tackles and his first NFL sack from scrimmage, and one tackle on special teams. Burfict, who got the other 30 or so snaps at Howard's spot, also pitched in doing both and had three tackles from scrimmage.

And backup middle backer Roddrick Muckelroy, released in the final Aug. 31 cut, didn't even practice Friday morning as he negotiated with the Bengals and another club before signing.

Throw into that another big special-teamer assuming a starting role when Jeromy Miles replaced Taylor Mays, and what more could unfold for Simmons but a gurney?

(By the way, that was Miles, seven tackles from scrimmage, making the final block for Jones.)

"That was a big effort by Rod to play like that given that he just got here," Simmons said. "And you look at how far a guy like Vinnie Rey has come and that's something. Vinnie and Vontaze still played a lot out there on (special) teams."

Rookie safety George Iloka led the way with two special teams tackles and downed Kevin Huber's 58-yard punt at the 5 as Cribbs could only get out of the way.

Simmons was raving about everybody, but Jones is the guy he pushed for the Bengals to re-sign to a one-year deal this offseason. Sunday is why. There were 81 reasons.

"You take a guy like that with his great competitiveness and put it together with his talent and you just know you've got a lot there," Simmons said.

Jones, the great athlete who returned four punts for touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons in 2005-06, did it back then on sheer ability. Now he's listening to Simmons's every word.

Remember now. Jones hadn't returned a punt in any kind of game since last season, Oct. 30 in Seattle, when he took his first touch since coming back from his neck injury. He would have scored if his hamstring hadn't had balked 63 yards after he caught it. Muscle pulls surfaced again this spring and iced him most of the preseason.

"I haven't had a special teams coach better than Darrin," Jones said. "That guy, any little thing. We're in practice and I'm catching the ball, but he's like 'You have to make sure you turn a little bit because in a game it's going to hit you.'

"It's little things he does that make me feel comfortable back there even though I didn't have any reps in the preseason. I've told you before. I feel comfortable when I have my catches.

"Those guys were blocking their (butts) off."

And that's the first thing Jones thinks about executing.

Catching the ball.

That's what he did Sunday and then he made the gunner miss him before he started upfield, the first of many misses. But don't ask him how many.

"I never know what happens until I go back and watch the film ... my main thing is catching the ball first," Jones said. "Once I catch the ball, I can't tell you how the play went. It goes so fast. It's not like I can think about it. I have to call it instincts."

The one Jones does remember is one where he slipped when he came flying up to catch it at his own 25.

"If I could have stuck my foot in ... those guys were blocking and the only guy near me was the gunner," Jones said.

Skuta says he and his teammates don't mind blocking for a guy like that.

"He's just a great player," Skuta said. "The good thing about him is if you work hard for him, and you get as many guys covered up for him, he's probably going to make at least one person miss."

Or five or six or seven. Jones thanked almost as many people as he made miss.

"Starting with upstairs, the owners, to coach Marv, to my position coaches. Those guys, they had trust in me and I stuck with it," Jones said. "They stuck with me through thick and thin."

Then he was back to making people miss again as he headed for the door. Everyone was there Sunday and he had to meet them. His wife, two little girls, plus his mother had made the trip.

"I'm not thinking about the past," Jones said. "What I really want to get is a lot more of these this year."

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