Injuries and inconsistency riddled Brad Jonesí first full season as a starting inside linebacker, but that hasnít changed how he views his place in the Green Bay Packersí defense.
Jones believes he and A.J. Hawk will face competition for their starting spots at inside linebacker, but that isnít any different than any other year.
ďI think every year is a competition, every year you have to go back out and prove yourself like you did the year before. I donít think anything changes,Ē Jones said Tuesday morning before the start of the Packersí ninth annual Tailgate Tour.
The Packers gave a strong endorsement of the 28-year-old Jones last season when they gave him a three-year, $11.75 million extension and released veteran Desmond Bishop, whose torn knee ligament opened the door for Jonesí emergence in 2012.
However, lower-body injuries hampered Jones for most of the season. He missed three early games with a hamstring strain and sat out of the Packersí regular-season finale against Chicago with a sprained ankle.
Jones played well early, particularly as an inside blitzer, but nicks and bruises seemed to slow him as the season progressed. He finished with a career-high 84 tackles, three sacks and one interception, but coverage was an issue at times.
The Packers need improvement from their 25th-ranked defense and inside linebacker could be in the crosshairs. They issued a first-right-of-refusal tender to fourth-year pro Jamari Lattimore worth $1.4 million and like the prospects of second-year linebacker Sam Barrington, but they also could look to the draft.
Alabamaís C.J. Mosley and Ohio Stateís Ryan Shazier have separated themselves as the two preeminent options thus far. After missing on mid-rounders like Terrell Manning and D.J. Smith in recent years, the Packers might bid high this time around.
Jones acknowledged being banged up for most of last season, but believes playing through the pain is part of the game.
ďI battled through some injuries last year, definitely," he said. "I had the ankle and hammy, and I had a couple injuries I battled through, but thatís football. Youíre going to have to battle through stuff I think. I think thatís kind of part of it.Ē
Jones has ďabsolute confidenceĒ in the direction the defense is going under sixth-year defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Heís also excited about the hybrid swing it's taking with the signing of Julius Peppers and associate head coach Winston Moss switching back to coaching all linebackers instead of just the inside guys.
It's all being done in hopes of improving a defense that regressed in the last two months of the season.
ďI think with Coach Moss coaching the whole pack there, I think it will be some good stuff honestly,Ē Jones said. ďI think some new wrinkles and some good changes will come. Honestly, I donít know the exact changes, but Iím excited. Iím definitely excited.Ē