OXFORD • Jaylon Jones isn’t worried about making cuts as he begins his comeback from the first major injury of his career.
After that, whatever happens to his knee is out of his hands.
Jones was poised for a big junior season last year, and the Allen, Texas, native was treating his home-state fans to a nice performance at NRG Stadium in Houston when his day – and his season – abruptly ended.
It was the third quarter when Jones, a defensive back, was assisting on a tackle and a Texas Tech player crashed into his knee, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament.
He’d recorded seven tackles, broken up a pass and returned a kick 94 yards for a touchdown by then, but his life was about to revolve around surgery and rehab.
Some players are able to return to previous production levels after ACL surgery, and Jones believes he’ll fall into that category.
He’s not worried about stressing the knee by planting and changing directions.
“I feel real confident in my knee, the way I move. I didn’t hurt it planting. Somebody dove into my knee,” he said. “I feel like that’s an advantage I have knowing that when I’m out there I’m not going to be nervous to plant.”
Or nervous taking a hit.
“If it happens it happens. That’s just part of the game,” he said. “It was an accidental play. I just trust God every time I touch that field. We’ll see what happens.”
Removing training wheels
Jones is wearing a brace on the knee through the month in camp, but he’s so confident in his recovery that he says he won’t wear one in the season opener at Memphis on Aug. 31.
A four-star signee in 2016, Jones has appeared in 25 games with eight starts. He had 34 tackles with three passes defended and two quarterback pressures in 2017. He had five passes defended as a freshman.
His knee was the first in a rash of injuries for the Ole Miss defense early last year. Recovery is different for everyone, and senior safety Montrell Custis, who tore an ACL just weeks after Jones, still is not at full strength. That’s expected to change early in the season, Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said.
Success was spotty for former Ole Miss cornerback Ken Webster.
After tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee in the season opener in Orlando in 2016, Webster was not able to play full seasons in 2017 or 2018.
Last year he missed two games entirely, started three, and finished with 33 tackles, two interceptions and six pass break-ups. It was enough to earn him an NFL Combine invitation.
Jones, who dressed out during spring drills but participated very little, remained upbeat during his rehab.
“Just seeing the bright side of it, really understanding that stuff happens, and it’s part of my journey. Just eager to get back on the field and knowing this wasn’t going to end me or end my career gave me that type of edge to attack rehab every day,” he said.