Adam Jones, who says what's on his mind, wants to stay in Cincinnati.
Unless it was quarterback Andy Dalton, no one had a better year on the Bengals than cornerback Adam Bernard Jones. Just look what he did on Saturday in the AFC Wild Card Game at Paul Brown Stadium.
Lining up against the NFL's third best pass offense and opposed much of the time by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, off merely the fourth best receiving season of all-time, Jones gave up just one catch. ProFootballFocus.com said he gave up four catches for just 32 yards. But it looked like the only one he allowed was a 23-yarder to Brown as the Bengals sent the high-flying Steelers to 2-for-13 on third down. When Jones didn't play against them last month, they converted eight of 14.
And don't forget the 24-yard punt return to the Steelers 45 with 3:28 left to set up what should have stood as the Bengals' winning touchdown after he did not return regularly for the last seven weeks.
But the only thing they wrote about was how Jones got in an altercation with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter at the end of the game, drawing the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that handed the Steelers the victory. And if you're Adam Jones and have spent the last six seasons building back your reputation from a plethora of legal problems that devoured your first five seasons in and out of the league, somehow that doesn't surprise you.
"I'm not going to let that one situation take away from everything I've done for the team and for myself the last couple of years," Jones said Monday, standing in a cold Paul Brown Stadium tunnel before leaving to maybe come back again. "Everybody knows I'm a passionate person in everything I say or do. I wear my heart on my sleeve."
This is not an ever-day occurrence. As passionate and as mercurial as he is, that is just his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in his six seasons with the Bengals and his first since the 2013 regular-season finale. He had two unnecessary roughness calls this season, including the celebrated Amari Cooper dustup in Oakland in the opener when he slammed Cooper's head to the ground after Cooper went after him.
But he had nothing like that the rest of the year. Until Saturday night. Until the Steelers had the ball on the Bengals 47 with 22 seconds left and WILL backer Vontaze Burfict was called for hitting a defenseless wide receiver in Antonio Brown, giving the Steelers life on a night a crown of the helmet hit on Bengals running back Giovani Bernard and a launch hit on tight end Tyler Eifert weren't called. If that wasn't frustrating enough for the defense, the officials let Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter break the rules and go on the field to talk trash to the Bengals. Jones reacted with what looked to be a swing at Porter.
Another 15 yards. Chip shot field goal. The Steelers give Joey Porter the game ball, not exactly a proud moment to display next to the Steelers' regal Super Bowl trophies in the Heinz Field lobby.
But . . .
Cincinnati Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium for the Wild Card playoff game 1/9/2016
"Adam's been great this year. He played his butt off all year. But you can't do that," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. "You have to walk away from the guy."
"I learned a lot from my actions," Jones said. "Go back and think about it. I hurt my team and I hurt myself. I can't say one play cost the game. You look back on it and I played a hell of a game."
Jones knows, but he's also amazed at the media coverage after the game that focused on him and Burfict when the Steelers had one assistant penalized, offensive line coach Mike Munchak after he pulled Bengals safety Reggie Nelson's hair, and another who should have been. Jones opened up on the Dan Patrick Show Monday morning and kept it going Monday afternoon as the Bengals packed up their lockers.
"He has no reason to be on the field," Jones said of Porter. "Coaches are supposed to be held to a high standard when it comes to stuff like that. Even with Mike Munchak grabbing Reggie's hair. Thank God that wasn't me. I wouldn't have just walked away in the heat of the moment. If one of their kids came over to our sideline and I snatched them down by the hair, I'm pretty sure I'd get kicked out of the game and fined over $200,000. A coach should have been kicked out for grabbing Reggie's hair. No reason for him to do that if you're talking about safety."
Jones' point stretches back to the Steelers game last month when Burfict crossed midfield during warmups to confront old Twitter follower Vince Williams and Porter wanted to mix it up with anybody in stripes.
"Everybody talks about how Vontaze got a warning. Joey Porter got a warning from the NFL, too. This stuff didn't just start. It's been going on," Jones said. "You guys sweep everything under (the rug) and attack the players. That's not right. I haven't seen one report from you guys talking about Reggie and the other stuff. But every time Vontaze hits somebody, it's like he's trying to kill people."
Hey, he said he was passionate and he's going to say the way he feels. He's a free agent and says he'd love to come back. At age 32, he's still the Bengals' best cornerback.
"I hope I do," said Jones of a return to Cincinnati. "At this point I have to make sure everything is good for my family. Of course, I want to be here. They've got a lot of young guys in here, we'll see how it goes."
Where ever he goes, he's taking that return game with him and talk about clutch. This season his 35-yard punt return in the fourth while nursing a groin injury contributed to the 17-point quarter against Seattle and a 19-yarder set up the winning field goal in overtime. In last year's play-off clincher against Denver, his 80-yard kick return set up the TD that made it 27-14. But none was more clutch than Saturday's 24-yarder, only his second return since Nov. 16, when he sprained his foot and they wanted to make sure they had him at corner.
But it was the playoffs. And when he thought he was ready, he put himself back there for kicks and punts. With 3:42 left and down 15-10, there was no doubt. The 24-yarder, his only punt return of the night, matched his jersey number and put the Bengals in superb shape, scooting up the middle to the Steelers 45.
"Just trying to make something happen," Jones said. "That's been part of my game. That gets me going at corner. I have a knack for it and I feel that I'm the best at doing it. Anywhere I go, kick and punt return is going to be a main topic."
That heart on his sleeve is also going to be in the discussion. Both sides, Jones and the Bengals, will be talking soon about keeping it going here.