A couple days ago, Sidney Jones was uncharacteristically unprepared.
In the defensive back meeting room there's a ritual that if a rookie is called upon, he must have either a joke or a current event ready to deliver to his contemporaries. Jones, the Eagles' second-round pick who is out indefinitely while recovering from a torn Achilles, didn't have one ready to go.
Veteran Patrick Robinson tried to deliver an assist to no avail; the current event Robinson provided for Jones was deemed not current enough.
So as Jones floundered at the front of the room, his teammates began to boo.
"That was a bad moment," Rodney McLeod said laughing.
See, while Jones is unable to perform on the field until further notice, he's still one of the guys. He still joins them at practice, in the meeting room and isn't even exempt from the occasional razzing at the hands of his teammates.
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The Eagles gambled when they took Jones with the 43rd pick in April, just a month and a half after the promising cornerback tore his Achilles at the University of Washington pro day. They're hoping he'll eventually return to his original form, which would make him quite a steal for a second-rounder.
For now, though, no one knows when the 21-year-old will play again.
"This is the way we told him: At some point he's going to play," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Who knows when it's going to be? We don't know. But his job is to make sure he's mentally ready when he's physically ready."
And Jones is seemingly taking his job very seriously.
Most days, Jones' uniform stays the same. He struts out to practice, wearing his pristine white No. 22 jersey with "Jones IV" on the back, black sneakers, black shorts, white football gloves and a green Eagles bucket hat. Every once in a while, he'll call an audible with an Eagles baseball cap instead.
"You can tell he wants to be out there," second-year cornerback Aaron Grymes said. "He's feeling it. When he's out there, he's bobbing his head to the music. .... You can definitely tell he wants to be out there."
Jones, who won't speak to reporters until he's practicing, isn't on the fields to chat or simply observe. Instead, he watches intensely, asks questions and sometimes even mimics the drills and partakes when he's physically able to.
Sidney Jones can't practice yet, but he's staying involved during practice. #Eagles pic.twitter.com/RO7v3zUGXi— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroCSN) July 26, 2017
"Sid feels like he's here," said fellow rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas, who has become close to Jones dating back to their time at the combine together. "He doesn't have on the pads and stuff, but he wants to practice the reps if he can do it. He wants to be out there. You can see it in his eyes when he watches it. He just wishes he was out there playing with us."
It's not easy for injured players to stay involved and focused. Schwartz called it "tough duty" even for veterans. Schwartz said camp is hard enough for players who are practicing, but it's even tougher for the guys who are watching tape of others.
Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls has known Jones for years; he thinks of him as his younger brother. The two were teammates at Washington and the Eagles drafted both in the spring. Qualls injured his groin last week and, while it's not a serious injury, he's been forced to become a spectator for the past few practices.
"While I'm out there, I try to go through the motions as if I was playing and everything like that, but I know that no matter how focused I am, Sid's trying to be more focused than that," Qualls said. "He can't wait to be back. He wants to contribute. He wants to play."
Sometimes Jones will break his fierce stare at practice to ask a question. Jalen Mills said there are times when the first team comes off the field that Jones is waiting for him to ask about why he did something or about a coverage or the offense.
And Jones is there to answer questions too.
"He tells me where I mess up at, what I should have done, when I should slow down, when I should hit the receiver on the jam," Douglas said. "He's definitely another set of eyes."
Jones is on the Eagles' Active/Non-football Injury list, which means they can activate him at any time during training camp. But they won't. Jones won't be ready to play until sometime during the season at the absolute earliest, and there's a good chance he won't be able to play at all this year.
But he's preparing like he will.
If only he could prepare to deliver a current event the same way.