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Jarvis Jones says he’s healthy, ready for NFL

Posted Apr 23, 2013

Being diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2009 could have ended Jarvis Jones’ college career before it ever got started. But he returned to be one of the top linebackers in the 2013 NFL Draft class.


(The opinions and analysis contained in this feature are those of the author and others credited and do not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of the Seahawks’ coaching staff and personnel department)

BEST OF THE BUNCH

A look at the position heading into the April 25-27 NFL Draft

Rank Player, School Ht Wt Projection
1/10 OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU 6-4 241 1st Round
2/16 OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia 6-3 245 1st Round
1/34 ILB Kevin Minter, LSU 6-0 246 1st or 2nd Round
3/39 OLB Arthur Brown, Kansas St. 6-1 241 1st or 2nd Round
2/40 ILB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame 6-1 241 1st or 2nd Round
4/41 OLB Alec Ogletree, Georgia 6-3 242 2nd Round

Rankings (position/overall) and projections by Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com


ANALYZING THE DRAFT CLASS

The word: While Rang has moved Mingo ahead of Jones, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock begs to differ. “A lot of people have (Mingo) in the Top 10, I have him at the end of the first round,” he said. Mayock opts for Jones as his top linebacker because, as he puts it, “He is an impact, explosive football player. He’s ready to play now.” But Jones also comes with some medical concerns. Olgetree? He also gets the yeah-but treatment from Mayock, who offers, “You want to talk about a kid that’s made for the NFL game with an ability to drop and cover. He’s fun to watch on tape. He flies. He’s explosive. He’s not great against the run. But, boy, in today’s NFL spread offenses he’s a great fit.” As for the yeah-but, Ogletree has had off-field issues.

What about: Keith Pough. The 6-2, 239-pound outside linebacker already has made a bit of history by being the first player from Howard to be invited to the East-West Shrine Game. In addition to being productive (83 career tackles for losses), Pough has been praised for his intense leadership. But as with any small-school player, the question remains: How will be handle superior competition? Rang has him rated as the eighth-best inside ’backer and projects that Pough will be selected in the fifth or sixth round.

Don’t forget about: Robert McCabe. We’re staying small school, but also very productive, with this one. The 6-1, 231-pound McCabe is ranked No. 23 among the inside ’backers by Rang, and likely won’t even get drafted. But he finished his career at Georgetown with 407 tackles, including a school-record 159 last season. But wait, there’s more: He had 19 consecutive games with double-digit tackles to close his career.

Seahawks situation: There is a hole on the weak side, where long-time starter Leroy Hill is not only an unrestricted free agent but his uniform number (56) has been given to free-agent addition Cliff Avril. Malcolm Smith, who was drafted in the seventh round with a compensatory pick in 2011, started three games for Hill last season and added speed to an already fast defense. But even if Smith becomes the fulltime starter, who replaces him as a special teams standout and valuable backup? That’s another way of saying you never can have enough linebackers, even for a team that acquired strong-side ’backer K.J. Wright in the fourth round of the 2011 draft and middle linebacker and leading tackler Bobby Wagner in the second round last year. As defensive coordinator Dan Quinn put it, “I think the thing that jumps out is just the speed of those guys who are playing linebacker. Sometimes that translates into being a good blitzer. Sometimes it doesn't. But the versatility for us is having a guy who can play on the end of the line, show the ability to cover, and then now when you add the pass-rush element to it, I think that's when you really develop as a player.”

It’s called spinal stenosis, and the question is whether this abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal will impact when Jarvis Jones hears his named called in this year’s NFL Draft.

Jones isn’t that concerned, as evidenced by his self-assessment at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“I have a slight narrowing in my spine between the C4 and C5 (vertebrae),” the Georgia linebacker said. “Like pretty much everybody – probably some of y’all have spinal stenosis and don’t know it. I have it.”

Jones discussed this potentially career-altering situation as if he was telling the assembled media at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis that he had a slight cold. But when you play the position he does – and the way he does – having spinal stenosis is nothing to sneeze at.

And proving he is healthy enough to play in the NFL was Jones’ primary goal at the combine.

“Our main focus was to come here and visit with all the doctors, so all the doctors can see me,” Jones said. “Take all the tests I can, that they needed me to take, so that they can see that I’m healthy.”

And how did that go? “I’m healthy right now,” Jones said after enduring almost nine hours of medical tests. “Most of the doctors checked me out and feel that I’m fine. I don’t have any contusion or anything like that in it.”

That wasn’t always the case. In 2009, when Jones was a linebacker for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC, he got a stinger. That ended his career at USC. But Jones moved on to Georgia and the proof of his health is in his production, as he views the situation.

“I played two years of SEC football – redshirted, practiced every day, never had any symptoms,” he said. “So I feel that I’m healthy. The doctors felt that I was healthy today. So I’m excited.”

And Jones is a player to get excited about.

After sitting out the 2010 season, Jones led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for losses (19.5) in 2011. Last season, despite missing two games, he led the country in sacks (14.5), tackles for losses (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven).

At 6 feet 3 and 245 pounds, Jones ran the 40-yard dash in a not-even-pedestrian 4.92 seconds at his Pro Day workout last month. But the interest in Jones was indicated by who was at the workout – Gus Bradley, the Jaguars’ first-year head coach and former Seahawks defensive coordinator, as well as Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell; the New York Jets’ duo of coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik, who had been with the Seahawks the previous six years; New York Giants GM Jerry Reese; Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix; and Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim.

Those teams hold the second (Jaguars), seventh (Cardinals), eighth (Bills), ninth (Jets) and 19th (Giants) picks in the first round of the draft on April 25.

Those making the draft-day decisions for teams aren’t alone in trying to figure when Jones should be considered. Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network, had Jones ranked No. 2 among the outside linebackers – behind Oregon’s Dion Jordan – before the combine.

“Now that’s a good football player,” Mayock said at the time. “He is an impact, explosive football player, and he’s ready to play now. He had some medical issues. If he checks out medically, he’s a Top 10 player.”

Since then, Mayock has put Jones at No. 1 among the 4-3 outside linebackers, with Jordan at No. 1 among the 3-4 outside linebackers.

But Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout.com ranks Jones third among the outside ’backers – behind Jordan and LSU’s Barkevious Mingo – but also as the 16th-best player overall. Rang compares Jones to the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller, who has produced 30 sacks in two seasons after being the second pick overall in the 2011 draft.

“Jones isn’t quite as explosive off the snap or as reliable an open-field tackler as Miller, but he’s close,” Rang said. “The medical concerns are frightening. But make no mistake; Jones is a Pro Bowl talent whose impact in the NFL will be immediate.”

Jones is counting on NFL teams agreeing with the assessments of Mayock and Rang on his skill set, rather than dwelling on his stenosis.

“Not at all,” Jones said when asked if he had any concerns about playing with his condition. “Anybody who steps on that field has a chance of getting hurt. If you think about it like that, nobody would ever play football. For me, I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity.

“I love this game. I’m passionate about it. I know that I’ve got to be careful about my technique and how I play this game. Therefore, I do extra stuff to protect my neck, to protect my shoulders.”

Jones is hoping NFL teams also can look past his stenosis and focus on what they’ll see of him as a player.

“I’m a student of the game. I prepare well,” he said when asked what makes him a player capable of producing 28 sacks and 45.5 tackles for losses the past two seasons. “I know what’s going on. I recognize formations. I find tendencies. I look at the small things that help me to play fast, play 100 percent the whole game and be relentless and just get after the ball. Letting the game come to me.

“Once you understand formations and recognize personnel, it allows you to play fast.”

All Jones wants now is for a NFL team to allow him to do all that at the next level.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘It’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive,’ ” he said. “No matter where you’ve come from or no matter what you’re going through, if you stay focused and stay confident, you can always be what you want to be.”

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