Bucs’ Julio Jones Issues Warning to NFL

Julio Jones

Getty Julio Jones anticipates returning to Pro Bowl form in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Julio Jones believes his past two injury-riddled seasons are in the rearview mirror.

“I feel amazing,” Jones told reporters on Friday, September 9. “I don’t have anything that is lingering, anything that is holding me back, anything that I am unsure about. I am ready to go.”

Jones will debut with the Bucs on September 11 against the Dallas Cowboys in his first regular season game since signing with the team in July. Thigh and hamstring injuries hobbled Jones the past two seasons in Atlanta and Tennessee where his production dipped to career lows statistically.

Tennessee released Jones in March, and the Bucs capitalized before training camp. The two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler looked more like himself in Bucs training camp as he impressed quarterback Tom Brady.

“Obviously, he’s a great player, but I think he’s a great teammate, too,” Brady told reporters on Thursday, September 8. “You just sense that he’s here for all the right reasons. He’s been really fun to get to know. Obviously, I’ve watched him for a long time, obviously admired his ability to play and play at a high level. I’ve been on the other sideline, watching him be a dynamic player. It’s always enjoyable to get to know different guys, and he’s one of the great players in the league.”

Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich likes the connection between Brady and Jones on the field thus far. That’s despite a small sample size, too, with Brady’s 11-day break from training camp.

“[Brady and Jones] are veteran guys that have played a lot of football,” Leftwich told reporters on Thursday. “Both of those guys are going to have [Hall of Fame] gold jackets. It took these guys two, three days to get acclimated when they were here.”

Jones Returning to His Old Self?

The last time Jones played more than 10 games in a season occurred in 2019 when he lit things up for the Atlanta Falcons.

Jones caught 99 passes for 1,394 yards and six touchdowns, which led to Pro Bowl honors. He didn’t show up to Tampa Bay looking like it was 2019, but the former Alabama star has turned the corner since then.

“When we got him, he was kind of out of shape so we kind of limited his number of plays during practice,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles told reporters on Monday, September 5. “He’s kind of gotten to the point where he’s returned to his old self.”

“He’s been great mentally, he’s been great for the guys in the room as well as out on the practice field, DBs alike. Right now, he can play,” Bowles added.

Jones’ Role Only Growing?

Bowles previously told reporters on July 27 that Jones can help alleviate the pass-catching void left by retired tight end Rob Gronkowski. Leftwich likewise hopes Jones can make big contributions on the field.

“Anytime you go out onto the grass, you want to have as many players as possible,” Leftwich told the media on Thursday. “Obviously, Julio gives us match-up issues, but we’re just working right now. We love what we’ve got here, we love the group, I love the mentality of this group.”

Despite Jones’ pedigree, the Bucs actually list him as second string on the depth chart behind Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage. Godwin and Gage are both still questionable for the Cowboys game, which likely means more targets for Jones.