For the long, humid days of training camp in 2015, during what turned out to be my final stretch as a New England Patriots beat reporter, I was really, really pregnant. As in, "a not-small chance I'd go into labor sitting under the media tent during practice" kind of pregnant. A couple of times, during what turned out to be his final training camp with the team, Chandler Jones would spot me, stick his pelvis forward and start to waddle like he, too, was 38 weeks pregnant.
I knew he meant no harm, and it always made me laugh.
That's how I remember Jones from the four years I covered him in New England: frequently smiling a big, toothy grin and quick to make a joke in the locker room. A preacher's kid who grew up in a college town in upstate New York as the youngest of three athletically gifted brothers — oldest brother Arthur spent eight years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, and Jon "Bones" is a three-time UFC champion — and with an older sister, Chandler was developing into one of the top pass-rushers in the league in those early seasons.
From watching videos and reading things he has posted to social media in recent weeks, it's hard to find that same young man. His behavior has at turns been scary and heartbreaking.
Over the weekend, the Las Vegas Raiders released Jones after he was arrested in the city for allegedly violating a temporary protection order for domestic violence. He hadn't played this season, with the team placing him on the non-football injury list Sept. 20. Head coach Josh McDaniels and others with the team said little about the 33-year-old, even as Jones' public behavior became more erratic, but according to a league source, internally there was worry for his well-being.
After releasing him Saturday, the Raiders posted a statement to X, formerly known as Twitter, that read, "The Raiders are hopeful that Chandler Jones receives the care that he needs. He, his family, and all those involved are in our thoughts. As this is now a legal matter, we will not be providing further comment." The team did not explicitly say what kind of care Jones might need.
Prior to that, early Thursday morning, Jones went live on X and made serious and unsubstantiated allegations against McDaniels and team owner Mark Davis and also referred to Aaron Hernandez, his former teammate in New England, as his "twin." Hernandez died by suicide in 2017 in a Massachusetts prison where he was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.
The video began innocently enough, with Jones saying he wanted everyone to know he was in good spirits and wanted to play for the Raiders. But it didn't take long for things to take a turn, with him rambling, mentioning conspiracy theories and at one point breaking down into tears when a viewer asked about Hernandez.
For anyone who knows Jones or is generally empathetic to those who appear to be in crisis, it was hard to watch.
His story again affirms that no amount of professional success or money can shield someone from serious problems. Jones is a four-time Pro Bowler and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade team for the 2010s, having registered 112 career sacks over 11 seasons and earned more than $125 million.
It's unknown at this point what will happen next for Jones. He currently has a Dec. 4 court date tied to his arrest, but beyond that, he might have played his last snap in the NFL.
We're left to hope that, as the Raiders alluded, he's ready to accept the care he needs so that he can be as healthy as possible for whatever the next chapters of his life look like.