Adam Jones loves playing cornerback.
Updated: 7:05 p.m.
Devin Hester is the only active NFL player with more punt return touchdowns than Adam Jones and yet there's a reason he still has more returns as a Titan (63) than as a Bengal (44) even though he's been in Cincinnati twice as long.
He's been playing a very good brand of cornerback and in the last three seasons he's started 20 games as the Bengals have fought through a variety of injuries at the position.
"It's tough to do when the guy is starting and you need him on defense for depth,' said special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. "Deltha O'Neal was a great punt returner, but he was also our starting corner."
Jones' steady play is a reason the Bengals have survived two Achilles injuries to Leon Hall and the MCL sprain of Terence Newman in last year's stretch run.
But even though they're back healthy and the Bengals added another first-round corner in Darqueze Dennard, Jones wants to cling to his spot on defense.
"I'm not giving up my spot to go and catch punts. Period. I don't care who asks me to do it," Jones said. "I like being back there, but I like playing corner too. Corner is where the money is at. Punt return is not."
Translation: if everyone stays healthy, Jones is going to get more than the 11 returns he had last season, but he still plans on being a factor at corner. When he wriggled for a 10-yard return against the Jets last weekend, it marked his first touch on a punt return since Dec. 1 last year in San Diego, before the Bengals lost both starting corners.
"I'm trying to score. I don't get excited over 10 yards," Jones said.
In fact, Jones would prefer he get no more chances in the next two games ("I don't have to prove myself in the preseason") and wouldn't mind saving up his chances when they count.
Simmons isn't saying much about it. Things still obviously still have to play out. Incumbent returner Brandon Tate is in his annual duel for a roster spot. But when Simmons talks about Jones returning, he looks like the cat that swallowed the canary. He may or may not have something up his sleeve with one of the league's secret weapons.
"Why would I?" asked Simmons about tipping his hand. "I think he'd love to get more chances. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands. We just have to see how the team breaks down."
But he wouldn't mind giving Jones more reps, either.
"Sometimes returners are like anything else. You need to get into a flow," Simmons said. "It's hard to just walk out on the field for the first time."
He's just not saying when.
TEZ OUT AGAIN: Vontaze Burfict didn't practice Thursday for the second straight day after leaving Paul Brown Stadium Wednesday with "a stomach bug." He was in the locker room before practice and watched practice;.
There was also no announcement he didn't sign his contract, a four-year, $20 million extension that had been reported by multiple outlets Wednesday. Burfict sent word through the Bengals public relations department he wouldn't comment. Given the team didn't make an announcement and there was no word from Burfict's side, the sense is the deal is still getting locked up.
Also not practicing were cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Lavelle Westbrooks (hip), guard-center Mike Pollak (knee), quarterback Tyler Wilson (head), and linebacker J.K. Schaffer. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hip) apparently got nicked picking up a blitz against the Jets and the Bengals were down to four running backs Thursday as Rex Burkhead (knee) reported to on-the-side rehab.
DRAFT DAY: One of the great matchups of the 2011 draft waits in Phoenix Sunday (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) when Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green meets Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. They went 4-5 in the first round after two battles in college that were split by Green's Georgia Bulldogs and Peterson's LSU Tigers. And they have been Pro Bowlers every year in the league.
"Speed and ball skills," Green said Thursday as he listed Peterson's traits. "He's a big corner and he can run."
They pounded it out like two heavyweights the one time they met in the NFL when they were rookies, a 23-16 Bengals victory on Christmas Eve at PBS.
Green had just two catches for 25 yards with a sprained shoulder, but he lured Peterson into a 21-yard pass interference penalty on a go route. Peterson got him back later in the game when Green appeared to beat him deep but quarterback Andy Dalton got drilled on a safety blitz and Peterson picked off an underthrown ball, hurt his Achilles doing it, and had to leave the game. Plus, the interception got wiped out on a roughing the quarterback call.
Green has similar battles twice a year with Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, a Florida product.
"He's something like Haden," Green said. "They're both crafty in and out of their breaks."
Green can't remember if he beat him for a TD in college, but thinks it may have been Peterson on a 16-yard TD he caught in 2009 when he had five catches for 99 yards. He caught a 43-yarder TD the year before in Georgia's 52-38 victory he had three catches for 89 yards.
CATCH UP: Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson saw one of his starting wide receiver Marvin Jones on crutches and asked, "Can you still catch?"
"I think I can still catch," Jones said and why not? Even though a boot is helping mend the stress fracture in his boot (fifth metatarsal), he's catching 100 footballs a day.
He may be sitting down and the balls may be shot from the jug machines at PBS or shot-putted from his little sons, but Jones is making sure he catches 100 a day.
"Catching is catching," Jones said Thursday in-between rehab stints. "Keep my hands right, keep them ready, so when it's right there'll be no drop-off and they'll be no drops."
Jones suffered the break Aug. 9, which means he's approaching two weeks of rehab for the pin in his foot. Everything, so far he says, is "as planned." That sounds like a return after the bye week for Oct. 5 in New England on Sunday Night Football.
"Hopefully," he said, "it would be a good game to be the start of my season."
When Marvin Jones III or Mareon can't throw it to him, or it's raining like it was Thursday at PBS, he can always get his brother-in-law to throw it to him. Anybody, anywhere. As long as he's sitting down.
"It's part of my personal rehab. Just catching the ball makes me feel good. That's what I do," Jones said. "When I can't do that, it stinks. But in due time I'll be there. For now catching balls makes me happy."