Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Matt Jones: His Fault Or Ours?

The Jaguars released Matt Jones on Monday, March 16 after 4 years with the team.

Jones was the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft but never reached the potential the Jaguars had expected out of him catching 166 passes and 14 touchdowns in four seasons. Last year was his best with five TD catches and 65 receptions as David Garrard’s favorite receiver. Jones accounted for half of the Jaguars yardage from wide receiver for the year.

His release was about “character” according to both Owner Wayne Weaver and General Manager Gene Smith.

“I hope Matt gets his life in order,” Weaver said outside the stadium. “But we have standards and when you step over the line, you have to pay the price.”

Only three players, Troy Williamson, Dennis Northcutt and Mike Walker remain on the roster as wide receivers who have caught a pass in the NFL.

(Ed. Note: Original 3-11-09 posting)

“Why would he be so stupid?”

That’s what most people were saying when they heard Matt Jones had been put in jail for violating his probation.

The other prevailing comment was “Figures.”

Either is not good.

Giving up drinking might be hard for some people and impossible for others (I gave up drinking for Lent once but thought it was too easy. Or course I’m working most of the evening so my drinking isn’t all night long). But anyway, giving it up is one thing: not drinking because a judge told you not to is something completely different. And Jones falls into the latter category.

“I made a bad decision,” he pleaded to the judge in Arkansas after he failed a random drug test on February 27th. Jones admitted he drank some beers with friends while playing golf. No big deal right? Wrong. He knew it was a violation of his probation but did it anyway.


Where does that thinking come from?

I can only suppose that it’s how he’s always acted. In the locker room, Jones is aloof, at least with the media. He doesn’t have a “carefree” attitude; he has an “I don’t care” attitude.

Big difference.

Perhaps it’s because he’s never been held accountable for anything he’s done. His athletic talent has always carried him. Since he was in Junior High, Matt Jones was able to do whatever he pleased. Throw his clothes on the floor in the locker room? Sure, somebody would pick it up and clean it. Stay out late? No problem, just score some baskets tomorrow night and everything will be all right.

After while, you kind of get used to being treated special and think if you do it, it must be right. Why? Because I did it! Nothing matters but your athletic talent. Go to college on a scholarship. Get whatever you want in High School. Many times local law enforcement looks the other way at your transgressions.

Then all of the sudden you’re rich beyond your wildest dreams and an adult. And now without the safety net of high school, college and your hometown, people are starting to expect you to live up to that money, and the status you have wherever you’re plying your trade. “But wait, I can do anything I want,” is what you’re mind is screaming but all of the sudden, you’re an adult and the rules change.

Problem is, nobody told you.

So somewhere in this kind of twisted logic, Matt Jones’ problems are actually our problems and his parents. (Although everybody told me that back in Arkansas to serve his probation they were sure things would go well because Jones’ father would “beat his butt” if he got out of line.) The consequences of his actions just haven’t sunk in for the Jaguars wide receiver. He still thinks the rules don’t apply to him. Even the judge in Arkansas said she didn’t think he was a bad person and he’s probably not. But when it comes to personal responsibility, he has none.

And that’s where we come in.

Athletes are just that: Athletes. Guys with tremendous athletic gifts. Different from the rest of us when it comes to the things they can physically do. But it doesn’t make them different when it comes to the accountability of who they are. And only we can hold them accountable.

We shouldn’t accept bad or irresponsible behavior from our athletes, starting at a young age. If they’re out of line in junior high, they should be made to understand that as an elite athlete not only can they not step out of line, but also they’re actually held to a higher standard. Make them be a role model. Just don’t let other kids model themselves after them. Encourage them to explore who they are, to test their limits, to be the best they can be.

Perhaps if we had asked that of Matt Jones and others, he wouldn’t be sitting in jail today.