In a revealing, contrite interview, former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones acknowledged the depth of his problems that have left him currently unemployed as he tries to catch on with another NFL team.
Jones told Michael C. Wright of the Florida Times-Union that he has learned a very hard lesson.
The former first-round draft pick was arrested last summer when he was caught by police cutting up cocaine in a car with a credit card.
Then, Jones served a week in jail for violating his probation by admittedly drinking alcohol on a golf course. Jones was arrested on March 9 for contempt, and the Jaguars cut him from the roster exactly one week later.
“[Cocaine] is something I hadn’t really done in the past, so it’s not like there was ever a drug problem,” Jones told the Times-Union. “[The incident] was something where I was with some of my buddies. It was a bad mistake, bad judgment on everybody’s part.”
And that mistake has triggered serious consequences for Jones’ career.
At this point, no deal is in the offing with an NFL team for the former University of Arkansas star even though he’s not facing any pending punishment from the league office with the exception of a $50,000 fine.
“We’ve had dialogue with multiple teams,” Jones’ agent, Dave Butz, said. “I think [his prospects for catching on with a new team] are excellent.
“We’re excited now to find the best fit for Matt. He’s scot-free as far as punishment and ready to have a great year.”
Jones, who caught 65 passes for 716 yards last season prior to being suspended by the NFL, admitted that his work habits weren’t up to par during his time with the Jaguars.
“My first year, I was just running around, being an athlete,” Jones said. “The second and third year, I kind of started to figure everything out. Then last year, I finally knew how to get open, was learning how to play receiver.”
However, Jones violated his plea agreement and was sentenced to jail for contempt.
“I just had some bad advice from people who were close to me that were like, ‘Hey, you can drink a couple of beers. It’s not a big deal,’” Jones said. “In the NFL program, you can drink alcohol. But there were a lot of different rules [from the drug court and the league] that I was looking at going through all that.
“The bottom line was it was a mistake I made and paid for. Really, I can’t point the finger at anybody else but myself.”
And Jones has tarnished his reputation severely.
In addition to his off-field problems, Jones’ work ethic is definitely under scrutiny.
Wright spoke with an unnamed former NFL head coach about how Jones is perceived around the league, and the review wasn’t a positive one.
“I don’t know the specifics of Matt’s situation, but guys like him and Mike Vick — obviously, Matt’s situation isn’t as serious — but I think teams are reluctant to deal with character problems,” the anonymous coach said. “There have been guys who have come through in the past I’ve worked with [that ran into legal difficulties] who are still trying to get back in.
“Once nobody trusts you, it’s hard to get back into the league. Another thing about Matt is he’s got a bit of a rep for being a lazy guy.”
For Matt Jones, it’s a lot of self-imposed obstacles to overcome.
However, at least he sounds committed to trying to change his ways.
“I’m just sorry for making these mistakes and how everything turned out,” Jones said “I let down my family, friends and people close to me, my teammates,” Jones said. “I feel bad for my mother having to go through so much in everyday life, people saying stuff to her.
“At the same time, all this has brought our family closer together. Everybody makes mistakes. Anybody who knows me, they know my heart and know there was never any type of problem with drugs or alcohol. I can’t worry about what other people are thinking.”