You might think Julio Jones is happier now than he was a week ago because, well, there’s that three-year, $66 million contract extension he received Saturday from the Falcons, and he did seem more at ease after practice this Thursday than last.
Yet once he bored into Sunday’s loss, not so much. The ninth-year wide receiver is not pleased with what he and his teammates did and didn’t do in Minnesota.
When you catch six passes for just 31 yards and you’re the NFL’s reigning receiving yardage leader, and your team gets run over 28-12 by the Vikings, it’s not all good.
Yeah, he scored a touchdown, but “I didn’t play really well in the game at all. I was coming into the game limited, but it’s football. Things happen,” Jones said three days before the Falcons’ home opener against the 1-0 Eagles.
“I was ready to go. My wind is there, no question. ... I’ll be way better this week for sure.”
Jones came off the practice field wearing white cleats emblazoned with “Waffle House” on them (prohibited in a game, although he could wear them pregame), and joked about sending some grub to the media room if his weekly news conference went well.
He was slowed in practice late last week by what team officials referred to as “soreness,” after spending much of training camp and the preseason working on the side.
Asked if waiting out the extension, which connects him to the Falcons through 2023, was a distraction, Jones said no, but maybe a little bit somehow. Was he sore and/or sore about something while cutting his work rate in the days before the opener?
“One thing for me is just being out there with my guys, just repetition more and more and more,” Jones said. “It kind of hindered that, but other than that, it wasn’t a distraction to nobody or anything like that ...
“Nobody was asking me is your contract going to get done, having their minds be somewhere else as opposed to on the game.”
The Falcons’ first pass play of the season saw Matt Ryan sacked.
The first pass thrown was intercepted as Ryan aimed short over the middle to the crossing Jones, the first of his game-high 11 targets.
The running game was stilted.
Afterward, there were periods of reflection, then inspection, and now work.
So, “It’s one of those things you go back, you process it, you go through first you’ve got to evaluate yourself, see what you’re doing and then as a group,” Jones explained. “Then you speak and see how can we get better as a group? But you can’t fix the group if you don’t fix yourself.
“We don’t point fingers, things like that. We all, me included, everybody ... if we mess up or do something wrong in a game that a lot of (outsiders) can’t see, (maybe) we block the wrong guy or run the wrong route or whatever, we’ve got to take full ownership ... just taking full responsibility for it and getting back out here and going to work.”
Asked if he treated himself in any special way after landing an extension that includes $64 million guaranteed with a $25 million signing bonus, Jones demurred. No, he did not go out and buy a fancy watch to wear in games, like, say, Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham.
“No, treating myself, like I said my whole contract thing, I’m good. It’s moreso about my family. I make sure my family’s good. That’s it,” he said. “I don’t really look at the money. I’m still going to do what I do. I’m going to come to work every day and do that.”
Nothing about Jones looks sore this week.
“I’m good. It’s football. Everybody is going to have little injuries, nagging injuries, things like that. You’re either hurt or you’re injured,” he said. “I’m not injured, so I’ll be ready to go.”
Perhaps best of all, Jones is more upbeat about this Sunday’s game.
“It feels right. Most definitely this week feels right,” guys flying around,” he said. “We’re really competing against one another. Regardless of offense, defense ... just getting us game ready. The energy ... we don’t let one game define us. We just keep stacking days.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.