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Chandler Jones Trade Revisited With Patriots Game

Posted Sep 7, 2016

Linebacker gets ready to face former team in regular-season opener

New Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones will be his Arizona debut against the team that traded him away -- the Patriots.

Before Chandler Jones had even arrived in Arizona, following his surprise trade from the Patriots, he was being welcomed to the Cardinals.

Carson Palmer and Tyrann Mathieu called. Larry Fitzgerald sent a text message.

“It was not really surprising, but it felt good,” Jones said. “As a guy not knowing anyone on the team yet, for the star players to reach out to me was a great feeling.”

Jones has fit in perfectly to the Cardinals’ locker room since arriving in March. That, coach Bruce Arians said, was the most striking thing once Jones came in. The team already knew of his edge pass-rushing skills and versatility.

But this week is about straddling Jones’ present and his past. The Patriots visit University of Phoenix Stadium for “Sunday Night Football” – an apropos debut for Jones in his new uniform – and both teams can see up close what the March trade will have meant.

To acquire the Pro Bowl linebacker, the Cardinals sent guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick, which New England used to take cornerback Cyrus Jones. Cooper missed most of training camp with a foot injury and remains limited in practice.

“(Cooper) had a good spring for us and was having a fine training camp,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He had a little bit of a setback.”

Cooper was the Cardinals’ 2013 No. 1 pick who never did pan out in Arizona. He was having a good training camp in 2013 before breaking his leg in a preseason game. Injuries and self-admitted mental roadblocks prevented him from ever taking hold of a starting job.

“We always thought Coop was going to be a player, he just continued getting hurt and it just was bad luck,” Arians said. “So, a fresh start can really help a guy as talented and as good a person as Coop is.

“You’re not going to hear it every single day that you’re a first-round pick and ‘Where are you at?’ and all that stuff. All he could ever say was that he was legitimately hurt.”

The only hiccup in getting Jones is the fact he is going into the last year of his contract, meaning he’s in line for a sizable contract at the end of the season. Jones insists he isn’t thinking about that, and for now, the Cardinals are just relishing the addition of such a player to the team.

Arians said Jones set the tone for his play the very first day of pads in training camp, when he knocked down guard Evan Mathis on a running play. Jones will never be seen as a great run defender, but after four years as a down lineman, he is getting used to standing up on the edge.

“He’s added what we were looking for,” Arians said.

Jones insisted he is looking at the Patriots game as any other Week 1 game, but even his teammates smile at that – “He’s trying not to treat it different, but there is extra pep in his step, that’s for sure,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said – and the national spotlight is going to give the reunion added juice. Even Jones admitted that he had circled the game in red when the schedule came out.

But it was clear Jones was trying to tamp down the storyline a bit Wednesday, staying safe with his answers and noting that, even though he is supposed to be mic’d up for the game, he probably won’t be talking much on the field.

The Patriots, and the trade, are the past. As soon as he started hearing from new teammates, Jones was focused on the Cardinals.

“I didn’t really have time to look back,” Jones said. “I just kept going forward.”

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