Chad Jones eyes return to NFL in two seasons

By Michael Lambert | LSU Reveille

Chad Jones entered a football field in early October to a standing ovation from thousands of fans.

Jones wasn't running onto the New Meadowlands Stadium, the home of the New York Giants, or through the Tiger Stadium tunnel next to cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.

Instead, the safety was walking gingerly across the 15-yard line of Death Valley, wearing jeans and a walking boot on his left leg.

Jones was honored Oct. 2 in Death Valley during the Tennessee game for his progress since recovering from a crippling car accident in the summer.

"That was great," Jones said. "I felt like I was back playing with my teammates, and to be in front of those people and all the fans was incredible."

The Giants' third-round draft pick was a fan-favorite during his three-year tenure with the football and baseball teams at LSU, adored for his ball-hawking skills in the backfield and his menacing presence on the mound.

The former LSU two-sport star remains in New Orleans to rehab his leg, which suffered multiple fractures and nerve damage when his SUV slammed into a streetcar pole on North Carrollton Avenue in the early morning of June 25.

"I've been doing rehab with Southern Orthopaedics Uptown," Jones said. "I go there two or three times a week for about two-hour sessions. I lift weights, do stretches and a lot of types of exercises."

Jones' activity level continues to increase. He is now lightly jogging after being released from his walking boot.

The alumnus of Southern Lab High School in Baton Rouge has set his timetable to return by the 2012 NFL season.

"It's going to be tough, but I'm up for the challenge," Jones said.

Rocky Arceneaux, Jones' agent, said the safety is further along in the rehab process than he expected.

"He'll be able to run and jog this season but not enough to be competitive," Arceneaux said. "It's going to take another year for him to get back where he wants to be."

Jones' next step is to fly to New York before the end of the month and have team doctors see where his recovery stands.

"Chad is coming up for a routine check-up with our doctors/trainers to track the progress of his rehabilitation," Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said in an e-mail.

Arceneaux said the visit will also determine if the safety's leg requires any further surgery.

Jones' contract, which was signed two weeks prior to the accident, was reportedly a four-year, $2.6 million deal with a roughly $826,000 signing bonus.

Arceneaux said the $2.6 million is not guaranteed because Jones' injury was not football related, but Jones will still keep the signing bonus.

Jones was waived in the summer before being placed on the Giants' non-football injury list.

Even so, relations between the Giants and Jones are strong, Arceneaux said.

"So far the Giants have been great," Arceneaux said. "They haven't given me any indication they are willing to jump ship."

Jones' father, Al, said one of toughest parts of the recovery process was during football season.

"You look at the Giants play and see some of his friends play. It's tough," Al Jones said. "His dream was there in front of him."

Chad Jones' leg serves as a constant reminder of the accident, but the mental images of the accident are also hard to erase.

"I think about it just about every day, at least once every day," Chad Jones said. "It happened in the past. It's in my past, and I just have to fight through it."

Former LSU running back Charles Scott, who is on the Giants' practice squad, said Chad Jones is going to come back strong once he is fully recovered.

"Chad is a beast," Scott said. "When he comes back, I'm going to expect him to be the same Chad Jones, knocking people's heads off."

Known as the "Dreadlocks of Doom," the dual-sport athlete was also picked in the 2010 MLB Draft in the 50th round by the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I'm leaving all my options on the table because that's such a different option," Chad Jones said.

The Brewers have had little contact with Chad Jones, who said his time with a baseball has been limited to playing catch with his 3-year-old son, Chad Jr.