Tennessee is expected to find out whether it has made the first cut with Harrisburg, Pa., running…
Player Diary: Mark Jones
I didn't know what to expect when I first got here. I didn't know anyone and no one knew me. I'm sure people were wondering, ‘Who is this guy coming in to return punts?' That was probably the hardest thing. After that first practice it was just like being back in Tampa. I started to get to know the guys, and that was it.
I didn't really know too much about the Giants before I got here, and some of the troubles they'd had in the past. I just knew I was coming here to return punts and that's all I concerned myself with.
I think my strong point is just catching the ball. After that I want to make something happen. I like to make the first two guys miss. Then you just have to go with the return and know what to do out there.
It's a great feeling to be in the open field. That's what you work for. Once you see that crease and you hit it, once you're through it you feel good about yourself because that's what you're supposed to do and even more. Once you get that first guy to miss, you're getting started. That's all you can ask for is to get it started back there. That's what the coaches are looking for.
The number one goal is always to make the catch. Whatever you get after that is gravy. But my personal goal is to get 10 yards after the catch. I want to make smart decisions and do the best I can back there.
Punt returning isn't for everyone. You have to get used to it over time. The more work you can get in during practice the better. That way once you get into the game it's not as bad. Once you get into the game, it's the real thing. Once you get it, you have to make something happen with it and do it fast.
I think I started off pretty well here. The last few weeks weren't bad, but I didn't get the returns that I wanted to get. I'm pretty hard on myself. Each week I try to pick it up and improve on what I did in the beginning of the season.
I want to return two punt returns this year to the end zone, and have a decent average. That will make me feel better and more confident going into the offseason. I'll know that I did my job as a punt returner so hopefully going into next year I'll be more established.
The blocking in front of me continues to get better each week. Each week the schemes are different based on who we're playing. We put in different returns for that particular team that we're playing that particular week. For the most part, the blocking has been good. I can't complain. They've been holding their guys up. The only thing I can ask for is that they allow me to get started.
The coaches stress the importance of punt returns just about every day. They're always stressing that we need a big play. You never know when that chance is going to come. You might only get one opportunity a game, but you have to seize that opportunity and do the best you can with it.
I love returning punts but it would be great if I could play some defense too. I came here as a receiver, and then they switched me to defensive back. I wasn't upset at all. I was happy with my opportunity, although I really didn't like wearing 89 and playing DB. That was the only thing I didn't like about it. But I can't complain. I'm here; I'm on the roster. I have a job to do here and that's returning punts. I know my role on this team. If anything else comes along, I have to be ready for it.
I would love to contribute elsewhere. I know it hurt me not being here for the offseason and training camp. Like anybody coming to a new situation, it's hard to get onto the field. The depth is already set and all that.
I'm still learning the defense and learning what to do and what not to do. I ask the other players questions so I can understand what's going on. That way, if my number is ever called I can go in there and contribute.
I don't think I'll get a chance to play receiver this year; they're probably going to just leave me at defensive back. In college at Tennessee, I came in as a receiver and got switched to DB, just like what happened here. I played DB the first three years. As a senior, I came back and played receiver, but I also played in the nickel and dime packages on defense.
I want them to know that I'm versatile, that they can use me wherever they need me. I'm not just a receiver, I'm not just a punt returner and I'm not just a defensive back.
It's kind of tough being a rookie. It's a big jump. Here it's a job, and if you're not doing the job they can replace you. You want to make sure that you're always focused on getting better and continuing to improve. When you do make a mistake, you have to make sure to put it right behind you and make sure not to make that same mistake twice.
There have been a few times where I've had some doubt about where I stood on the team. I know I'm a punt returner, but I want to know what else they're looking for me to do. I'm willing to do whatever they want me to do.
I recently went to Ike Hilliard to talk about life and football and what to expect on this level. I asked him if I could come to him whenever to talk about anything, if he could be that guy for me and he said sure. I also went to Terry Cousin to learn about the defense. Those two are the guys I'd go to if I ever needed anything around here. It took a little while to get a feel for the guys – who I could trust and who I couldn't.
Ike told me to just go out there and have fun. Not to get caught up in what the coaches are saying to you or what the media's saying or writing. He's been through a lot in life, both on the field and off. He told me to just stay positive all the time.
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