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Chandler Jones Ready To Play Free

Posted Aug 1, 2016

After trade from Patriots, linebacker having fun and ready to be crucial pass rusher Cards need

Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones readies to come off the line of scrimmage during Sunday's practice.

There was a game while Chandler Jones was playing for the Patriots – against the Redskins – in which the pass rusher wore a mic, capturing a player with a happy-go-lucky streak as his way of attacking his job.

In between quarterback pressures and sacks, the new Cardinals linebacker bellowed at opponents and cheered his teammates from the sideline.

“That’s how I play,” said Jones, acquired for a second-round draft pick and guard Jonathan Cooper in a March trade. “If I can’t play relaxed, I feel like I can’t play free and be myself. The coaches know it. They know what they’ve got.”

The Cardinals do know what they have with Jones. They finally have a young Pro Bowl edge rusher, a player coming off 12½ sacks and who can scare opponents every game wherever he lines up. They have a piece that should mesh well playing alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell, with whom Jones said he has already worked on “games” the duo is ready to unleash on offensive lines.

The last time the Cardinals picked up a pass rusher in his prime, Bertrand Berry delivered 14½ sacks in 2004. The feeling is Jones should be able to reach that mark, especially since defensive coordinator James Bettcher will likely leave Jones outside almost all of the time. The Patriots moved Jones around a lot, including some situations inside.

That’s not what Jones is in Arizona to do. For the record, he refuses to consider statistical goals, only wanting to improve from the year before.

 “There is a lot of really good chemistry between me and Chandler,” Campbell said. “He’s a smart football player, works hard, and with his natural size and ability he can do a lot. When he and I are in there together, the sky is the limit. All the pass rushing moves open up.”

The first day of padded practice was Jones’ show, pressuring the quarterback, showing his ability against the run and looking every bit the part of a star player. He earned praise from coach Bruce Arians.

Jones has fit in well off the field as well. His infectious personality lends itself to an easy transition in the locker room, seen the past week as Jones ran a “takeover” of the team’s official Snapchat account and unveiled fun interactions with teammates.

This summer, after OTAs had ended, Jones took a trip with teammates to Los Angeles for some non-football time together.

“Great dude, cool guy to be around. A likable guy,” said fellow linebacker Markus Golden, one of the players on the trip. “Some guys, when they’re around, everyone likes them. He’s one of those guys.”

Perhaps the only question surrounding Jones now is how long he’ll be a Cardinal. Like a good chunk of his teammates – many of them of the highly paid variety – Jones is going into the final year of his contract. He’ll make $7.8 million, and as a young pass rusher, he stands to make a lot of money on his next deal (The Cardinals could end up using the franchise tag on him for 2017). Jones’ personality won’t let him think that far ahead.

“I’m more of a day-to-day kind of guy,” Jones said. “I’m not thinking about (the contract) at all. I’m here for however long I am here and I’m here to play and I am here to win. They brought me to hopefully go to Super Bowl 51 and so my biggest goal is to get better every day.”

He’ll do it with a smile along the way.

“There are always boundaries,” Jones said. “But at the end of the day, be yourself. Honestly that’s how I feel. That’s how I feel I can be the best Chandler Jones -- if I can go out there, be myself and have fun and make plays.”

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