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Whether Sack Record Or Contract, Chandler Jones Leaves Talk To Others

After five-sack game, linebacker keeps focus on football not future

Linebacker Chandler Jones (55) celebrates one of his five sacks Sunday against the Titans.
Linebacker Chandler Jones (55) celebrates one of his five sacks Sunday against the Titans.

Chandler Jones isn't talking about the NFL sack record.

The outside linebacker did that last season, only to end up with only one before a biceps injury ended his year after just five games. So even after a whopping five sacks in Week 1 against the Titans – for those counting, he is only 17½ shy of tying Michael Strahan's mark with 16 games to go – it's not a subject Jones will delve into.

"I'm not going to go that direction," Jones said Wednesday. "I remember last season I was kind of talking about my season-ending stats. My goal is to do better than the previous year. Whatever that is, I want to do better than I did last year."

In terms of sacks, he had already accomplished that eight minutes into the season. But for a player who is in the last year of his contract and wants an extension, the drive isn't going away.

But Jones isn't talking about that either. It does the 31-year-old no good to dwell on what his contract situation is currently. It doesn't mean he never thinks about it – "Of course. I don't know where I'm going to live next year," – but when the season began, it was important to put those thoughts aside.

"I think I play best when I don't go in thinking about the deal," said Jones, although he did have some fun with GM Steve Keim at the end of the game Sunday patting Keim's pockets.

Judging by Sunday's NFC Defensive Player of the Week-winning performance, Jones' mind must have been a blank.

"You saw what type of talent he is, he knows what he is," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "I know he wants more money and he's probably deserving of it. It's part of the business. But the way he's handling himself and the way he's treating his teammates and coaches, it's phenomenal."

Jones' quest for a new contract has been oddly quiet in a lot of ways. Because of his season-ending injury, the last time he had spoken to the media was last September. He did not attend offseason OTAs or minicamp. Jones also asked for a trade, something he acknowledged Wednesday before deferring to either GM Steve Keim or his agent to talk about specifics "if Steve wants to talk about that."

But he showed up to training camp in fantastic shape – he said he weighs around 260 and feels "fast and explosive" – and has dominated since then. It had only been on the practice field before Sunday. Then Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill felt his wrath.

"In this situation here it's advantageous for me to show up for sure," Jones said. "I know I wasn't at minicamp, I wasn't at OTAs, but when it comes to this season I think doing your job is essential, putting the team first, ignoring the noise and managing expectations."

Running back Chase Edmonds said he was with Jones training in the EXOS in Phoenix for a chunk of the offseason.

"I saw first and foremost, every single day he went in there and busted his tail," Edmonds said. "You could tell it was personal this year. He wanted to come back and really remind everyone of who he was.

"I saw the NFL Top 100 list came out, and I know Chandler tore his bicep last year hut they didn't even have him up there. Just the ultimate disrespect. He put the whole league on notice with what he did with those five sacks."

Jones insisted he understood why the injury meant he wasn't on the Top 100 list. He said he just wanted to play football well and didn't want to talk about it being "personal." That's outside the focus of the season.

So far, the focus looks amazing – Jones' last full season in 2019 he had 19 sacks, and he looked better than that in Nashville.

"He's a really unorthodox guy," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "Takes his shirt off, he doesn't look too good, but he makes plays on Sunday. He's one of those dudes who is real instinctual and he is an expert at rushing the passer. I'm glad he's on my team."

At some point, the Cardinals will have to figure out if Jones is going to remain on the team past this season. Those are conversations for others. Jones is thinking about Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

"I'm just playing football, honestly," Jones said. "I'm letting my agent take care of all of that. It is the last year of my contract and I let that take care of itself."

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