CHICAGO – It was a dream come true on a rainy afternoon in East Rutherford for a young football player getting his first shot in the NFL.
“Thank you God! Let’s play some ball,” said Velus Jones Jr. on Twitter ahead of the Bears-Giants game on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
Indeed it was a relief since the wide receiver and kick returner had missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. The third round pick out of Tennessee was anointed the team’s top kick returner out of training camp and had yet to show off his skills.
That opportunity would come on Sunday, which was anticipated not only by Jones himself but also Bears fans, who were eager to see what the kick returner might be able to add to special teams and, perhaps, on offense as a receiver.
But over the course of the game, Jones went through some of the growing pains that come with being an NFL player. There was the good, which included two kick returns for 44 yards along with a 19-yard return on a punt as he showed a bit of what he might be able to do.
But there was also a frustrating moment for Jones as well, and it came at a critical time of the game. With just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the Bears getting the ball back down eight, the rookie muffed a punt that was recovered by the Giants.
It gave New York possession in Bears’ territory, and even though they would miss a field goal at the end of the drive, it left little time for the offense to drive for the tying score. In the end, Jones’ fumble was the last major play of a 20-12 loss to the Giants that drops the Bears to 2-2.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Jones, who answered all questions from reporters following the loss. “I’m definitely going to let this one sit and hurt. It’s going to motivate me next week, next time I’m out there. I know my abilities. I know what type of returner I am.
“So I’m definitely let this one sit and hurt.”
While it’s natural to think that way, he probably doesn’t need to, for this moment is part of the growing pains of pro football. As he experiences it, so does his team in many ways, since together they are going through the growing pains of a rebuild.
A lot of things figure to happen on the negative end with some positives sprinkled in as the new staff & players figure each other out over the course of the next few months. That’s not what anyone wants, but sometimes that’s part of the growing process for players and the team.
Velus will have better days in the NFL probably a few that don’t go as well, too. That’s part of the growing pains that come with a professional football career and building a team as well.