Velus Jones Jr. will let costly muffed punt 'motivate him' for next time

Velus will let muff 'sit and hurt,' 'motivate him' for next time originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Velus Jones Jr. had been visualizing this moment since the Bears drafted him in the third round in April. He had seen himself making a game-changing play to put the Bears in a position to win.

It felt like his moment, the one he had been visualizing, arrived with just over two minutes to play Sunday during Jones’ NFL debut at MetLife stadium. The Bears were trailing the New York Giants 20-12, but the defense had just forced the Giants to punt from their own 7-yard line.

Jones trotted out near midfield, hoping to make an electric return that would set quarterback Justin Fields and the offense up for a game-tying drive.

It wasn’t to be.

Giants punter Jamie Gillian boomed a punt that got hung up in the New Jersey wind. Jones drifted to his right, looking to catch the punt and make a play up the right sideline. But the wind fooled Jones, and the ball bounced off his hands and onto the MetLife turf where the Giants pounced on it, effectively ending the game.

“The wind was carrying the ball a lot especially at that direction,” Jones said after the game. “You just got to beat the ball to the spot. I feel like I didn’t do that. I was still like moving with it instead of beating the ball to the spot.”

It was a brutal mistake for Jones to make in his NFL debut, especially after fighting to get back from a hamstring injury that has had him sidelined for almost six weeks.

It’s one that will stick with Jones, embedded in his memory.

“It’s really frustrating,” Jones said. “But I’m definitely going to let this one sit and hurt. It’s going to motivate me next time I’m out there. I know my abilities. I know the type of returner I am. So I’m going to let this one sit and hurt.”

Apart from the muffed punt, Jones said he felt good about his NFL debut. He’s hoping to get more chances at receiver to help a passing attack that took a small step forward Sunday but is still struggling to find consistency.

Jones fumbled a kickoff during his preseason debut against the Seattle Seahawks. He quickly flushed it and later ripped off a 47-yard punt return that showcased his blazing speed.

That’s the kind of turnaround Jones is hoping for next week when the Bears visit the Minnesota Vikings. He knows he can’t let Sunday’s error hang around in his head for too long.

Just long enough so it doesn’t happen again.

“Twenty-four hours,” Jones said when asked how long he would let the muff sit before moving on from the mistake. “We’re in the pros now. I’m a pro. This isn’t college. It’s a job. You just got to focus on next week and the task at hand. It’s a long season.”

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The Bears drafted Jones because of his playmaking ability. It’s something the Bears are lacking on their roster.

After getting nothing from Trestan Ebner and Dante Pettis in the return game for the first three weeks, the Bears were hopeful Jones could give them a spark Sunday in the Meadowlands.

Instead, he made a costly mistake. One he plans to feel so that it won’t happen again.

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