Updated: 12-6-12, 4:40 a.m.
If you don't buy the subjectivity of Web sites like profootballfocus.com that rate Adam Jones the 10th-best cover cornerback in the NFL and the 15th overall, listen to a fellow cornerback that played with him in Dallas in 2008 and Cincinnati now.
"He's turned things around and turned his life around and he's playing real good football," Terence Newman said Wednesday as the Bengals prepared to meet the fabled Cowboys this Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's-Channel 19) at Paul Brown Stadium. "I told him when I got here I was proud of him. Just the way he works. What's admirable to me is the things he's been through and the direction he's going. I can relate to playing with a guy like that. I can work with a guy like that any day of the week."
And if you don't take it from an esteemed locker-room tone-setter like Newman, then take it from the two men that Jones entrusted his career to back in May 2010, head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"We reinforce the positives, and we get the things we need to get out of their game out of their game so that we have an opportunity to be successful and win," Lewis said. "Adam has benefited a great deal from that, but he was longing for that, he needed that. That's a good thing. We're really getting into the inner guy that's got so much ability and talent."
The hard-to-please Zimmer, who had a rocky relationship with Jones last year, has been sold.
"He kind of had to prove that he wanted to fit in a little bit to me," Zimmer said. "Honestly he's been good. I haven't had one issue. He cares about playing good and trying to be a better teammate. He cares about winning and I think he cares about what I think.
"This is probably the best year he's had since he's been here. He's tackling well, disciplined in the things he needs to. He can still jump off the reservation sometimes but for the most part he's been good."
Both Lewis and Jones knocked on wood Wednesday when they started talking about Jones's progress. There had been the season-ending herniated neck in October 2010. Then he needed another neck surgery just before 2011 training camp that wiped out the first six weeks of the regular season and after that he was hobbled by a series of hamstring and calf muscle injuries that didn't clear up until this September.
Last year didn't end well. Not only did the injuries eat away at his play, but Jones had some set-tos with Zimmer on the sidelines and it was a surprise when the Bengals re-signed him to a one-year deal this March.
It was Zimmer who recommend the Bengals sign Jones two years ago despite his checkered past because of the endorsement of Deion Sanders, but like Zimmer said he needed to see something else from Jones this year if he was going to stick, and Jones went into the spring mired on the depth chart.
But he has won Zimmer back, not to mention a very solid job as the third corner.
"It's the best I've played in a long time," Jones said before Wednesday's practice. "In the last three, four years. My body is feeling good. Everybody knows what it was last year. I wasn't at my best. I didn't play well. I was coming of the neck injury. I wasn't tackling well. I got a year up under my belt. I feel more comfortable with my body."
Even though he says he's an emotional player, Jones admits some things got too emotional last year with him and Zimmer.
"I respect Zim; he's a father figure," Jones said. "Last year, those things you don't want to happen. I'm going to do whatever it is in my willpower to make sure that we don't get into that situation ever again.
"That's life. You go through things and if you don't learn anything, you're going to end up in the same situation. I won't let that get in the way again. I'm just doing my job and let my play speak for itself. These guys have done a great job tuning me in to be the player I am now."
Jones says it's a cut-and-dried contrast from what he had in Dallas in 2008. He's appreciative for owner Jerry Jones giving him a shot coming back from his 2007 NFL suspension, but it ended badly after he played in just nine games when he was cut after an odd incident with a security guard assigned to him. Adam Jones says that's the public reason he was cut and that there were other things at play.
What everyone can agree on is that Jones didn't play well and there are those in Dallas that say he was going to get cut anyway, simply on performance alone.
"I was horrible in Dallas and the coaching was horrible, too; from the top down," Jones said. "Zim is a demanding guy. He's a technique guy and with me being a raw athlete, that's the type of guy I need around me. The Zimmers, the Marvin Lewises, the guys that keep you grounded, that keep you in shape. Some guys get comfortable and let your technique lapse. These guys stay on you."
Newman was there in 2008 and says that Jones himself will say he wasn't in shape. Newman has also seen how much Zimmer has meant to Jones's play.
"That was a different situation. He wasn't ready for that situation, mentally or physically," Newman said. "He has a lot of respect for Zim. Zim is the ultimate technician. No matter who plays his defense, technique is always going to be prominent. With that type of coaching, there's no reason he shouldn't be a great one."
Adam Jones doesn't hide his desire to play well against the Other Jones's Cowboys. He says the only friend he's got over there is "No. 21," cornerback Mike Jenkins, a rookie when Adam Jones was there.
"I'm thankful for everything (Jerry Jones) has done for me," Adam Jones said. "The way the situation played out, I didn't agree with it. He had to do what was good for his organization, which I respect. I have no hard feelings.
"I love Jerry with all my heart. I'm not going to get into what I don't like about him but it's not about Jerry. He's done a lot for me. I'm a Bengal and I would like to stay a Bengal for the rest of my career but we'll see how that goes. Right now I'm playing hard and on Sunday I'll have a double chip on my shoulder. I'll just go out and let the game come to me … it's one of those that means a little more on the edge that you want to win. You don't prepare any different but deep down in your heart you want this one."
He is, Adam Jones says, a much different guy than the Cowboy of 2008. This is no longer the poster child of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's campaign to clean up the league off the field. To a new generation of players, he's the guy that made such a stirring presentation at the last NFL Rookie Symposium on what not to do.
"Every team that we've played, I've had a rookie come up and say they appreciate me speaking to them," Jones said. "My mindset during Sundays is so crazy, nine times out of 10 I ignore them. But it's pretty good."
WHIT WAITS:Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said Tuesday that he appealed his $26,000 fine for fighting with the NFL, but wants no help to pay it if he loses.
During a break in the Shop-With-A-Bengal event with St. Vincent de Paul Tuesday night at the Eastgate Toys"R"Us, Whitworth said he appreciated tight end Jermaine Gresham's recent offer of financial aid.
"Jermaine has been on me all week to give me some money. Every day he's begging for my account," Whitworth said. "I've been running away from him. I appreciate the gesture, but I feel like it's mine to live up to. I'll eat it. But it means a lot to me for a guy like him to try and help me. It means a lot."
Whitworth indicated if he wins some kind of appeal, some of that original fine check is going to be ticketed to a charity. He said he felt he had a good phone conversation with Ted Cottrel, the former long-time NFL defensive coordinator reviewing his case.
AWARDS PILE UP: With left end Carlos Dunlap winning Defensive Player of the Week, the Bengals have won five of the league's weekly or monthly AFC awards. With four games to play, that's tied for second-most in franchise history and one short of the record six in 1988 and 1989.
Besides Dunlap and right end Michael Johnson bookending it Sept. 23 in Washington with a career-high three sacks to go along with six solo tackles, quarterback Andy Dalton was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his Nov. 11 performance against the Giants when he passed for a career-high four touchdowns and no interceptions on 21-of-30 for 199 yards. Cornerback Adam Jones earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his Sept. 16 performance against Cleveland with three punt returns for an average of 30 yards that included an 81-yarder for a touchdown.
And wide receiver A.J. Green was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for September. In four games he led the conference in receptions (27), was second in receiving yards (428) and was tied for most receiving TDs (three).
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Lewis said rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who suffered a concussion in San Diego, won't practice Wednesday. His status for Sunday is being monitored during the week and he he won't return until he passes protocol. Each player's protocol is different. Safety Taylor Mays and cornerback Terence Newman have suffered concussions this year on Sundays and were able to practice right away on Wednesday.
» Backup running back Cedric Peerman (ankle) was still in his boot for a sprained ankle and didn't practice. Also not on the field was Marvin Jones, but he's expected to be fine after being sent home sick. Mike Nugent (kicking calf) also didn't work. Tight end Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) was limited. With center Kyle Cook going full, the thinking is he'll be activated some time this week.
» Rookie running back Daniel Herron practiced for the first time Wednesday on the roster after being signed following all season on the practice squad. He says he's more comfortable in the offense and feels like he can go more wide open and relaxed.