Adam Jones figured he saved his best for last.
One of the kids, one of those AFC draft picks gathered Monday night to hear that walking headline named Adam Bernard Jones, asked the inevitable. Why, asked the kid, if you were a rookie again sitting out here, would you listen to you?
I'm where you're getting ready to go, Jones told the kid. I've seen what you're getting ready to see. I've done what you're getting ready to do. I've won. I've lost. I've been up and down. I've been in and out. And I thank God he kept me so I can tell you the oven is hot. Don't touch it.
"I thought," he said, "the closing statement was the best part."
The oven has never cooled for Jones, the Bengals third cornerback coming off his best season as a pro and one where he finally secured that three-year security blanket of a contract just months away from his 30th birthday.
He had stepped in front of the NFL Rookie Symposium less than three weeks after being charged with assault in a downtown Cincinnati incident that can be best described as bizarre, curious, disappointing and cloudy. But whether it's criminal or worthy of suspension or both appears to be anyone's guess because the video of Jones's confrontation with a woman at a restaurant bar is one of those you-see-what-you-want-to-see clips. It could be enough to haul him before the NFL commissioner again.
So, as Eric Ball said, it's not why, but why not put Jones front-and-center before the rookies again like the NFL did last spring?
"I thought he was good again. I thought he did a better job this year because he had done it before and he was more relaxed," said Ball, the Bengals director of player development. "He talked about accountability. He also talked about that he has to keep working at it, that he's not perfect, and I thought that was valuable as well."
Jones has come as long as his 81-yard punt return in last year's Paul Brown Stadium opener that jump-started the Bengals run to a second straight playoff berth. He has gone from Roger Goodell's Most Wanted to a player popular with teammates and busy in the community.
But he still keeps fighting through traffic.
"I'm an emotional person. Things happen so quick. I've got things I've got to work on and that's one of them," Jones said. "I don't like confrontation, but when I'm around confrontation and physically touched, there are some things I have to work on as a person that don't come overnight. I've changed, but I've never said I'm a god. I'll keep working, keep my nose clean like it's been clean, and keep my head down."
One of Jones's rookie teammates, Bengals offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson, was glad to see Jones take the stage.
"A lot of the stuff here at the symposium is redundant; it's kind of boring," Hawkinson said. "But it's pretty interesting when they bring in players and former players like that and to be able to hear their stories and how they dealt with all that stuff.
"It hits closer to home knowing it's a guy on your team that has had turmoil throughout his career and fought through all that. Being where he is today, what type of guy he is, how he is in the locker room and talking to some other guys, you can tell he's someone who has come a long way."
Jones literally is going a long way to the symposium. On Monday he drove the three-and-a-half hours to suburban Cleveland up and back with his two daughters and "my lovely wife (Tish), who should be driving right now," Jones cracked Monday night on the way back to the east side of Cincinnati. He planned to head back to speak to the NFC rookies on Thursday.
"It won't be the same exact speech," said Jones, raising his voice above the "Daddy" screeches of soon-to-be-three Zaniyah Christine.
"But it's pretty much the same idea. You're not bigger than the game. I've been there. I was humbled and you have to realize that."
Jones has heard the argument many times before. There's a camera in every phone, so just don't go out. But while he knows he has things to work on, he also knows his blood boils with competitiveness and he'll take you up on the debate.
"That's easy to say, but I'm 30 years old. Why shouldn't I be able to go out and mingle with people without being harassed?" Jones asked of the incident after a Reds game. "I'm not out until 3, 4 in the morning. Most nights I'm home by 12 o'clock in bed. If this incident is me out drunk at 2:30 in the morning, then I understand I'm setting myself up for failure … I'm not harassing people, I'm not fussing with people. ... At a certain point in my life I should be able to mingle with my teammates after a baseball game for 30, 40 minutes."
That's a blitz into a gray area, but on Monday night Jones deftly dealt with the black and white. The way he told the rookies, Adam Jones has respect for the game and the money the way Pacman Jones didn't. What Hawkinson remembered most is the subject of hangers-on.
"It's really important to know who hangs around you. Your circle of friends outside the football team. Making sure they're the right people, the people you want to be around," Hawkinson said. "Most of the time those are people that have been sticking with you since day one, from childhood or high school. You just have to make sure that circle of friends is tight and (not) with a lot of knuckleheads stringing you away from where you want to be going and kind of leading you down the wrong path. Just kind of making sure that those you surround yourself with are people that are going to affect you positively."
Like last year, Jones had plenty of rookies surround him after his presentation and he left with a bunch of new numbers in his phone. He already knew fellow West Virginia alum Geno Smith, but he enjoyed meeting Raiders No. 1 pick D.J. Hayden.
Unlike last year, he didn't catch anyone falling asleep.
"I guess they were listening," said Jones, who may not be a god, but that didn't stop him from making the drive.