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VOL. 46 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 4, 2022

Jones’ toughness helps carry Titans

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Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones has a knack for recovering quickly from injuries and getting back into the game. He can thank his mother and big brother.

-- Photo By Scott Boehm | Ap

A video of Titans center Ben Jones getting a big, heartfelt hug in the tunnel from head coach Mike Vrabel went viral Oct. 22 following Tennessee’s win against the Indianapolis Colts.

Some wondered exactly what that moment was about, but neither Jones nor Vrabel would open up about it. Let’s just say it was Vrabel’s heartfelt appreciation for how Jones has become a bona fide leader and tough guy on this Titans team.

It probably also had something to do with the way a beaten and battered Jones was one of the Titans pushing Derrick Henry in the pile for a first down that finished off the game.

But for those who know Jones, that’s just him.

“This is an emotional game,” Vrabel said when asked about Jones following that game. “These guys put a lot into it. Everybody is committed. I can’t say this enough, I’m committed to these guys that care about the team, that put the team first, it means something. I know that it means something.

“They are all out there. Everybody that is out there is far less than 100%. If we waited until everybody was healthy, we would not be able to field a roster.

“All that stuff means something. I believe it. When they do it, I’m excited for them. I’m happy for them. A lot goes into everything. It is an emotional game. I appreciate what they do.”

Jones is at the top of the list of players Vrabel appreciates for their dedication. In that game, Jones was out for a few plays but returned to finish. It wasn’t the first time Jones has had to leave a game for a bit then find his way back in the lineup after getting taped up or treated for whatever might ail him at the moment.

In that regard, Jones is relentless, somewhat like Wile E. Coyote in that he can get knocked down again and again but always comes back to try again.

“That is just about a weekly occurrence with Ben (Jones),” quarterback Ryan Tannehill says. “It seems like more weeks than not he is peeling himself off the turf and getting back in the huddle, struggling through something.

“He is one of the toughest guys in the game. He battles to be out there each and every week. I love going to battle with Ben.”

But unlike Wile E. and his futile chase of the Road Runner, Jones knows that relentlessness inside him is a big part of why the Titans have been able to win and find success since he came here as a free agent from Houston in 2016.

“You give it your all every single day,” Jones says. “That’s what it takes to win in this league. It’s not just X’s and O’s. It’s passion. It’s guys who care about each other.

“It’s family here, and that’s why I keep wanting to go. These guys are my brothers, and I don’t want to let them down. That’s our mindset.

“We’ve got lots of tough guys on this team, lots of guys that play through stuff, whatever it takes to win.”

Jones came to the Titans with the reputation for being an unusual character and a prankster, eating bugs on a bet or pulling practical jokes to keep the locker room loose. But when the time comes to play, he is all business.

His father died in a helicopter crash when he was just 10 years old. His mother and brother Clay, two years older than Ben, had a huge influence on him growing up in rural Alabama, and their influence remains to this day.

Clay Jones played baseball for the University of Alabama and spent two years in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system. Now, he works for his uncle’s company in their hometown of Centreville, Alabama, designing water tanks and is still influencing Ben with their weekly phone talks even now.

“I look at my older brother, he goes to work every day, no matter how he feels. Why can’t I go do something I love and go out there to work?” Ben says. “You don’t want to let your guys down. If you can get up, you’ve got to go. It’s just been ingrained in me for a long time, from my mom saying if you’re not hurt, you’ve got to go.

“I used to see my older brother, who is one of the toughest guys I know, he used to cry a lot when he was little in baseball. Mom said, ‘You’d better be hurt if you’re gonna cry.’

“From then on, we were raised a certain way, and that mindset stuck with me. We have that mindset. My older brother ingrained that in me, fighting me every day of our lives growing up. He was pushing me, no matter what. That’s just me.”

Pushing Jones, just like Jones pushed the pile that day and continues to push the Titans with his toughness.

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