The Chief, Adam Jones, and Randy

Adam Jones

When he thinks about it, The Chief believes the reason he phoned Adam Jones is because of Randy Simmons.

"My best friend on the LAPD," James E. Craig says of his days as a Los Angeles policeman. "He wouldn't say anything, but on his days off he would go help at-risk kids. He was L.A.'s first SWAT member killed. He played football at Washington State. And he was a cornerback."

Jones didn't return the Chief's phone call for a couple of weeks.

"I was skeptical," admits the Bengals cornerback, whose problems with the law a lifetime ago put him on the Wanted poster in the NFL offices. "Good cop, bad cop. There's no such thing as a good cop where I come from."

Simmons was a good cop. Until just after midnight, Feb. 7, 2008, when the SWAT team leader and his men broke through the door of a San Fernando Valley home and faced a man that had killed three family members. Simmons, 51, a 27-year veteran of the department, was shot next and died within the hour, engulfing the community in grief for its heavily decorated youth activist.

Craig, then a LAPD captain, told The Los Angeles Times later that day that once when he was patrolling Watt's gang-infested streets he saw Simmons, his old partner, off duty and looking for children to mentor in his ministry. He knew their names and their stories.

Now Simmons's story is part of Adam Bernard Jones's story because four years later and now Cincinnati's chief of police, Craig used experiences like that to institute a boot camp-style program by his officers for at-risk kids in his new town.

On Graduation Day back in April, Jones would have to fight back the tears as 13 of the 20 original kids from the ages of 12 to 15 got their diplomas.

"These kids were like me in the beginning," Jones says. "They probably had never talked to cops or didn't like them. When the kids graduated, they were like the Chief's kids. He was like a father figure. A great program."

The Chief would have his men, he but he also wanted a guy like Jones he knew had lived what the kids had lived. Craig says kids "have got that BS meter," and he sensed that they would know Jones is quite real.

"It was no secret he had a few challenges, but I've a got a gift for being able to read people," says Craig, who also has the gift of understatement. "I could see he had a great heart and then when I did see him working with the youth I could see how excited he was to give back. He's a genuine person with a lot of attributes we're trying to build into our young people. Adam never gives up. He's not the biggest guy on the field, but he never lets his size be a hindrance.

"I believe as much as he affected those children, it had an effect on him."

Jones smiles and nods. The Chief of Police? Yes. He's got his number in his phone.

The Chief, he says, "is a great a dude. A very funny guy." Not only does Jones have The Chief's number in his phone, but also the numbers of a couple of motorcycle cops, both black and white, and they invited him out to Pappadeaux's for lunch not too long ago. But he had to turn down the invite because of a team commitment.

"At the end of the day, it changed my outlook on the police," Jones says of the camp that lasted from January to April hard on Vine Street. "There were probably 15 (officers) and I got along with all of them but one. It helped me grow. A man can't judge a book by a cover. At the end of the day, that's what they have to do to take care of their families. You're not going to see me just being buddy-buddy with every cop. But I respect them. I respect their job."

OK, OK, get the jokes over with. Chief Craig and Pacman Jones? The Un-Reality TV Show right? How about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney walking dogs together in the park? Or James Harrison and Roger Goodell going to the movies? The Odd Couple on steroids complete with a league suspension.

First of all, he's no longer Pacman Jones.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis made that clear when Jones signed with the Bengals two years ago and his agent, Peter Schaffer, reiterated it this week.

"I call him Adam and he calls me Peter," Schaffer says. "There are no nicknames. That marked a period in his life that is no more."

And second, Craig handled it just like Randy Simmons knew he could. Simmons had a cup of coffee in the Cowboys training camp before he got hurt, but he went on to become a pro.

When they were on the beat together in L.A., Simmons called Craig "Governor" because he predicted his friend was going to go on to do big things. Both of them did. Simmons had a funeral fit for a president attended by governors and Craig became the first African-American police chief in cities as diverse as Portland, Maine and Cincinnati.

And one of the staples of Craig's agenda is handling at-risk youth hands-on like his friend did, one-by-one with tough love and tender thoughts.

"There's no question that the reason I'm so committed to these youth programs is because of Randy," Craig says.

The Chief took some heat from reporters when he asked Jones back in January to come into the program. What about his background, they asked? The most arrested man in the NFL. Three seasons virtually lost to the scanner, including a year's suspension.

"I told them why not someone like Adam Jones?" Craig recalls. "Why not someone who can relate to these kids and who can tell them what not to do and the things to avoid?"

Jones admits he had some "run-ins" with the Cincy police before Craig's call. They've been documented. After one traffic incident, Craig's predecessor apologized to Jones for how it was handled back in 2010 and in an odd incident during his fiancée's birthday party in a downtown bar just before last year's training camp, Jones was handcuffed even though he had a neck brace.

But Craig was seeing and hearing about a guy that had changed. His kind of guy. Passionate. Genuine. And the boot camp proved it, Craig felt.

"He was tremendous; the kids love him," Craig says. "You talk about a guy that was able to relate and a guy that kids would listen to. ... I bumped into a lot of celebrities out in L.A., and there were very few that were very genuine like Adam. Denzel Washington is a great guy, very humble. But not many and that's the impressive thing about (Jones)."

The principal, Alesia Smith, saw the same thing. Her school, Rothenberg Academy, draws mainly from the crime-riddled Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and it was chosen for the first boot camp. The children she and her staff chose were exposed to the police in intense role-playing, physical activity, and bonding. One Saturday morning she arrived early and poked her head into the gym.

"(Jones)'s face was just lighting up," Smith says. "They were doing calisthenics. Jogging. Situps. Lunges. That's his thing. And he was so excited as he was going from child to child.

"I understand even though they graduated a couple of months ago, he's still mentoring one or two of them."

This is why The Chief called Jones. This is why he brought the program from L.A. This is why he keeps a framed photo of the motorcycle cops at Simmons's funeral in his office to the left of his desk.

The numbers in the phone.

"A couple of the kids still call me," Jones says. "I grew up as an inner-city kid in the projects. That's just the way it was. You didn't speak to the cops. As I got older and a lot more mature, you respect people for what they do and you respect them as a person.

"I've really wanted to work with the kids in the Vine Street area. It was a great opportunity for me and the kids. A lot of similarities."

Both have to say something.

Craig says Jones was under no obligation to go through graduation and the fact he never brought the cameras endeared him even more.

"I feel like I've got a great friendship with the Chief. But I'm not going to do anything where I need him. I'm past that," Jones says. "That's not me anymore. But as far as going to play golf, yeah."

Schaffer calls the boot camp merely a snippet into how Jones has turned around his life.

"He's really grown up," Schaffer says. "There are a lot of reasons. I think he learned some things about trusting people that put him in bad situations. The Bengals have been great, Marvin, Mike Brown. Really, the whole Brown family. And the great thing about it is even though he's matured he's still got that same child-like enthusiasm about anything he's doing. No matter what's going on, you always feel better after talking to Adam."

It's funny, but that's how you feel after talking to Craig. Truth be told, Craig, 55, like Jones, 28, had some trepidation about the police as a youth growing up in Detroit. He was in junior high when the city blew up in flames in the late '60s. But his father was in the police reserves and Craig learned what Jones has learned. You can't judge a book by …

"I know that's what people do with me," Jones says. "They have an image of me and then they meet me. I know I can't do the same thing with police and that's what I tell these kids. You have to respect them. You have to respect their job."

According to Alesia Smith, her kids have made a judgment.

"One Saturday I couldn't get to the school and he took them down to the stadium and showed them around," Smith says. "Then he took them to Johnny Rockets for lunch. They were talking about that for a long time."

Craig was there that day and he was seeing what he knew he'd see. Simmons's son has followed him to Washington State, where he wears his number, and Craig wants to get him in touch with some possible mentors.

"It would be great if Adam could talk to him," The Chief says. "I consider him a friend."

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