Forced out of last month's NFL Scouting Combine with an apparent spinal injury, former Georgia linebacker
Despite running the 40-yard dash in a pedestrian 4.85 seconds at Thursday's Bulldogs Pro Day, Jones still believes he's the top player in April's NFL Draft. Several teams in the top 5 are reportedly interested in the two-time All-American. Jones (6-3, 241 pounds) has meetings scheduled with the Chiefs, Eagles and Lions, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In 2009 while at USC, Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis -- a degenerative condition that can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Jones subsequently transferred after doctors would not allow him to return to the field. In response, Jones sought a second opinion from spinal specialists and was cleared by team doctors at Georgia.
Jones received promising news earlier this month when a prominent orthopedist concluded that he never suffered from spinal stenosis while with the Trojans. Dr. Craig Brigham, an orthopedic surgeon at the OrthoCarolina Spine Center in Charlotte, told National Football Post earlier this month that Jones "had a very mild incident of spinal cord concussion or merely a stinger that has long since resolved."
In two seasons at Georgia, Jones recorded 28 sacks and 45.5 tackles-for-loss. Jones could be coveted by the Chiefs and Lions after both teams lost pass rushers in free agency. Former Chiefs defensive end Glenn Dorsey signed a multi-year deal with the 49ers, while former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril agreed to terms on a two-year deal with the Seahawks. In Philadelphia, Jones could team with newly-signed rusher Connor Barwin.
Jones also reportedly met with the Bears, Browns, Cowboys, Jaguars and Rams at the combine.
"Anybody who steps on that field has a chance of getting hurt. If you think about it like that, nobody would ever play football,” Jones told CBSSports.com's Rob Rang. “I know that I've got to be careful about my technique and how I play this game. Therefore, I do the extra stuff to protect my neck, to protect my shoulders."
The condition is not rare. Former Chargers offensive tackle Marcus McNeill slipped to the second round in the 2006 NFL Draft amid concerns about his neck. Last August, McNeill retired at 28 in part because of the injury.
In 2010, Rob Gronkowski reportedly received a similar diagnosis at the Combine, according to Yahoo Sports, an evaluation that was disputed by his agent Drew Rosenhaus. Gronkowski, a former tight end at Arizona, missed the 2009 season with a back injury.
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