Jones Still Getting His Kicks

Posted Dec 22, 2010

Though his position often leaves him overlooked, Donnie Jones has been perhaps the Rams’ most consistent contributor since joining the team in 2007.

As the Rams’ punter for the last four years, Jones has performed among the league’s best in nearly every statistical category — gross yardage, net yardage, punts inside the 20-yard line. In the past four years, no NFC punter has been as consistent as Jones.

However, that success has yet to yield a Pro Bowl berth. Jones has only recently begun to gain league-wide notoriety for his work, as he was selected as an alternate for the game the past two years. A trip to Hawaii would be welcomed, though he acknowledges that much of the process remains outside of his control.

“The Pro Bowl is always something guys look forward to,” Jones said. “I don’t necessarily worry about it a lot only because we can’t control the voting. All we’ve got to do is play. I just try to go out every Sunday and do my best week-in and week-out and everything will just take care of itself.”

Jones knows all about the disappointment of being left off a Pro Bowl roster despite a strong year statistically. Jones stayed home after the 2008 season despite becoming the first NFL punter to average 50 yards per punt and have a net average of more than 40 yards in more than 60 years.

The NFC instead chose 22-year veteran Jeff Feagles, who finished the year 17th in the league in gross yardage.

“That was the one that stung the most, I think,” Jones said. “I was first in the NFL that year and finished second in net. I don’t know what else you’ve got to do to go. If you don’t go then, what do you do to go? So that’s why I don’t really worry about it anymore or put that much stock into it. If it’s something I get selected to, it’ll definitely be an honor, but I can’t sit here and worry about it.”

Jones’ teammates have taken the campaigning for a Pro Bowl selection into their own hands. In an effort to give Jones an extra boost in the balloting, center Hank Fraley ordered t-shirts with “Vote for Don Jones, 2011 Pro Bowl” emblazoned on the front for the entire team to wear as a means of getting out the vote for Jones.

“That was pretty good,” head coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “They’re having fun and that’s a good thing.”

The seven-year veteran has continued his success this year, amid additional challenges. Since the team’s week three win against Washington, Jones has battled a strained calf, preventing him from practicing for the majority of the season. Despite not kicking in practice for nearly two months, Jones’ performance on game days has not suffered.

For the year, Jones is averaging 45.9 yards per punt, with a net average of 40.9. Twenty-six of his 78 punts have been pinned inside the opponent’s 20.

Jones had his best performance of the year against this week’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. In the teams’ week 10 meeting, Jones punted 10 times without yielding a single return. It marked the only time this year in which a team received at least nine punts without a return.

“I look at that as a great defensive weapon right there,” Spagnuolo said. “When you can keep the returner from actually getting the ball and returning, that’s overlooked.”

Jones and his teammates are hoping this will be the year that kind of performance gets the attention it deserves.