Ravens WR Jones healthy and dancing again

The Associated Press

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Now that he's got his rhythm back, Jacoby Jones is dancing again.

The Baltimore Ravens receiver and former 'Dancing With the Stars' performer accounted for 249 yards and scored the game's lone touchdown in a 19-3 win over the New York Jets.

Finally healthy after spraining his right knee in Baltimore's season opener, Jones broke into dance after making a fine over-the-shoulder catch for a 66-yard score.

''That felt good,'' Jones said Tuesday. ''It took me 11 weeks. It was good to get in the end zone and finally get a dance off.''

The well-planned, oft-rehearsed performance was dedicated to his 'Dancing With the Stars' partner, Karina Smirnoff.

''I told Karina, 'When I get in the end zone, I'm putting out the quick step.' And sure enough, I pulled it out,'' Jones said.

It was his second touchdown of the season. The first came last month against Green Bay, but the Ravens still trailed after the score so Jones toned down his celebration.

''You can't dance when you're losing,'' Jones said. ''That's a lack of character. But when we're winning and I get the opportunity, it's time to boogie.''

Jones had plenty of chances to boogie last season, when he repeatedly came up with big plays for the Super Bowl champions. During the regular season he returned three kicks for touchdowns and caught 30 passes 406 yards and a score.

In the postseason, Jones was even better. He danced after catching a 70-yard touchdown catch to force overtime in Denver, and danced some more after taking a kickoff back a Super Bowl-record 108 yards for a score to help Baltimore beat San Francisco 34-31.

Jones became a celebrity and spent a portion of his offseason on talk shows and dancing with stars. He was hopeful for an encore this year, but his season got off to a rocky start. As he prepared to return a punt in Week 1 against Denver, Jones sprained his knee when a rookie teammate inadvertently busted into him.

Jones returned from a four-week layoff to face the Packers, but it wasn't until last week that he returned to feeling like, well, himself.

''I had to work to get back that rhythm again, that feeling in your body when everything is just natural,'' he said. ''I got my bounce back. When you finally get back to that, it feels so good.''

Ravens coach John Harbaugh knew Jones was ready to roll because the wide receiver told him as much.

''He told me before the game that he felt fast. He said he really felt fast,'' Harbaugh said.

Not only did Jones burn two Jets on his touchdown catch, but he returned five punts for 108 yards and collected 38 yards on two kickoff returns. With Jones operating at peak efficiency, the Ravens (5-6) just might be able to mount a playoff run beginning Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6).

''Jacoby making big plays is something that's incredibly important for us,'' Harbaugh said. ''If we can add that to our arsenal here, that would be huge.''

Jones represents a speed threat, one the Steelers will not take lightly.

''He's getting more looks now,'' Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor said. ''That's why Jacoby is doing what Jacoby does, and that's catching the ball and making things happen. He's a Pro Bowl returner; that lets you know what he can do in the open field.''

Taylor and the Steelers had better be ready.

''It's just a matter of getting the ball to him and converting first downs,'' Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. ''He did a great job on Sunday, he's been doing that. We've just got to get him into it and get him going.''

Jones, 29, was a football player long before he became a celebrity. His newfound exposure has broadened his popularity, but Jones insists he hasn't changed.

''I think I'm the same old G,'' he said. ''It's just a little more recognition. Sure, some people mess with me and say, 'You've changed. You're Hollywood.' But they're just joking.''

After finally unveiling his quick step in the end zone last Sunday, Jones is already planning his next performance. He would be delighted to pull it off against the Steelers on national television.

''I've always got at least three dances ready,'' he said. ''I keep them up my sleeve. I practice them every day.''


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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