Two months passed as Chandler Jones looked on.
“I was watching a lot of those games at home, right on my couch around the corner, “Jones told WEEI’s Middays with MFB on Monday. “And I would just see those guys on the sideline – breathing, guys smacking each other upside the head – that’s what I missed the most. That’s what I was so excited to be a part of.”
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound New England Patriots defensive end had to wait to once again be part of it.
He waited as New England acquired edge-rusher Akeem Ayers from the Tennessee Titans. And over his time away from the Gillette Stadium field, he waited by studying to join his new teammate on it.
“I’m a huge fan of Akeem. Every single snap that I missed that he was in I watched, live and I watched it again when were watching film,” Jones said.
On film, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Ayers was able to generate a different kind of pressure in Jones’ absence, using speed and strength to amass 16 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception over six games. Yet while his transition to Foxborough came to fruition as a swift one, the player he replacing was key to making it so.
“I was there to help him and tell him certain things that I would do in a certain situation, Jones explained. “But it’s funny because me and him are two totally different players, different body types, different rush styles. You got a guy who’s 6-5, 260 pounds that’s kind of long and gangly and [can] do finesse moves. And then you have a guy that’s kind of short and compact that’s fast and can run right past you.”
That was illustrated as those six games passed by. But Jones, who returned to practice as a limited participant two weeks ago, knew there was recovery time on his hip injury passing by as well.
He marked an ‘X’ on the calendar because of it.
“I was just waiting for the doctors’ word and just taking it day-by-day-by-day,” Jones said. “And yesterday was the day.”
On Dec. 14 against the Miami Dolphins, Jones was done waiting. He was active for the first time since his Oct. 16 ailment took half of his third NFL season from him.
“As I was sitting there getting ready going through my pregame ritual, I started to kind of tear up, like ‘Wow, I’m back. I’m back playing.’ And I just hoped, I just prayed to God that I’d have a decent game and I was just still able to move around,” he said.
The 2012 first-round pick was still able to move around as the Patriots finished the AFC East race with a 41-13 victory.
Jones finished having logged 56 of New England’s 81 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, notching seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Ayers, meanwhile, filtered in to play 32 snaps, notching one tackle. But both have proven their place in an 11-3 Patriots defense, even if their molds aren’t the same one.
“For offensive tackles each and every week to have to study, that could be pretty dangerous,” Jones said.