GREEN BAY – A poster hangs above Datone Jones’ bed. It isn’t a framed photograph. It isn’t a timeless work of art. It is simply a list – a complete list of the goals that he sets and challenges himself to achieve during the upcoming season.
“Every year I tear them down and chase new ones,” the Green Bay Packers second-year defensive end said. “I would love to tell you them, but I can’t. Those are my goals.”
When the first-round draft pick tore the list down after his rookie season, he wasn’t happy about the fact that he hadn’t checked off every box.
“I barely played, last year,” Jones said. “I played like three plays a game. I would have been lying to myself if I said I completed those.
“But for the most part I feel like I got better and did enough to help the team.”
Jones saw action on 276 defensive plays, including 13 in the team’s NFC Wild Card playoff loss to San Francisco – and during that time recorded 19 tackles, had 3.5 sacks and recovered a fumble. Although he saw his playing time diminish late in the season and be given to fellow rookie Josh Boyd, a fourth-round pick, Jones was on the uptick when the season ended.
Nevertheless, he was unsatisfied with his performance and is motivated this season by one thing only.
“Chasing greatness,” Jones said. “That is my motivation. Every day.”
If you observe Jones on the sideline at any given time, he is usually happy and smiling, like someone who is overjoyed to be where he is. But all that changes when he’s in a three-point stance across from an offensive lineman.
“A lot of people don’t know a lot about me, it trips me out,” he joked. “I am a very serious guy when it comes to football. I love to smile and I love to joke around, but when it comes to being between those lines, I just switch.
“I can turn it on and off.”
At the same time, Jones looks at football as a place of solitude. The gridiron is a place to escape and get away from the outside world and just be comfortable with his teammates.
“This is our comfort zone,” Jones said. “This is where we come to burn that steam off. Get away from home and just be around one another. There is nothing like it. You can’t do this anywhere else.
“If I tackle someone off the field I am going to jail.”
His second year looks to be for the taking. He’s working as one of the defensive ends in the team’s 3-4 base defense and as one of the two interior pass rushers in the nickel and dime sub packages. He’s being given every opportunity to become the player he believes he can be.
“Datone is very focused right now. But he’s not a finished product yet,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “Right now, we’re expecting him to be an every-down guy.
“Datone’s working his butt off right now. [But] I’m one of those guys where, even in that regard, I’m on him and on him and on him. Because he could be even better at that. He’s not where he needs to be in that regard, but I like his resolve and focus right now.”
The hope, of course, is that at this point next year, when Jones goes to tear the goals poster off of his wall, he’ll do it with proud feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, knowing he is one step closer to his ultimate goal of greatness.
“I think I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was,” Jones said. “Last year I got hurt, suffered a terrible injury and missed like half the preseason. But, now I feel like I got a lot off my shoulders, I can really relax and focus and just play.
“It is football to me.”
Tony Cartagena covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow him on Twitter atTwitter.com/TonyCartagena