Daryl Jones carried a cell phone with him at all times and no news is usually good news. After a long and anxious weekend, he finally received a call from receivers coach Darryl Drake late Sunday afternoon.
“Although I’ve known Coach Drake since I was in high school,” Jones said. “It took me a while to figure out that he was fooling with me when he first started to say ‘Daryl, I’m sorry’. I almost had a heart attack. When he told me that I’d made the team, I was jumping up and down and screaming. At first my wife thought that something terrible had happened. When I gave her the good news, she was thrilled. Now at last she and my baby daughter can move here. It’s been so hard without them.”
Jones joined the Bears during the final week of 2003 after having been cut by the Giants at the end of New York’s training camp. Although initially the ‘invisible man’ on the Bears roster, Jones’ speed and ball handling skills quickly caught Terry Shea’s attention. With an injured Jerry Azumah out of the lineup, Jones saw his opportunity.
“I knew it was a now or never situation. The team needed a kick returner and that was my specialty,” Jones said. “I got really excited as I was on the field more and more. It meant that perhaps I had a chance to make the team after all.”
Despite leading the team in receptions and averaging 29.3 yards per kick return, Jones became increasingly nervous about his chances of making the team.
“I’d been through the whole cut down process before. That certainly didn’t make things any easier this time. I’d done the best that I could but would that be good enough? It was so hard to know for sure. Now that I’m in, I’m breathing a big sigh of relief. At last, I can start sleeping through the night.”
Jones proved that his track abilities are useful in the return game. He broke a 69-yard kickoff return against the Saints mostly on his own.
“I love returning kicks,” Jones said. “It’s a chance to prove that I’m a young and hungry guy. My speed is good and I can concentrate on the ball. As a returner you feel a certain kind of pressure. You need to block everything out of your mind in that one period in time. Some players thrive on that, some don’t. I’m just so happy that the coaches feel I am one of those who can handle the position. I’ll do everything I can to justify their confidence in me.”
On the Mend: R.W. McQuarters returned to practice on Monday for the first time since pulling his right hamstring in the Aug. 27th preseason game vs. the New Orleans Saints.
The Bears have already lost Jerry Azumah for half of the regular season, but expect McQuarters to start vs. the Detroit Lions in the season opener.
“It’s a good sign to see R.W. out there this early in the week,” Lovie Smith said. “We thought he would play but maybe start practicing a little bit later in the week.”
Playing cornerback is one thing, while having McQuarters returning punts is another.
“Right now, we’ll see,” Smith said. “We don’t want to do too much with him. Right now we’re hoping that we’ll have him in some capacity. We’ll decide a little bit later on exactly how much.”
If McQuarters were unable to return punts then Bernard Berrian would be next in line. The rookie struggled on kick returns, but found a niche on punts averaging 8.5 yards on eight attempts. In the preseason finale he did a 62-yard return negated because of a holding call.
Precautionary Measure: Bobby Wade and Dustin Lyman both missed practice on Monday with complications from cuts. Both are expected to play Sunday, as the team isn’t taking any chances.
“We expect both of the guys to practice this Wednesday,” Smith said. “Today was an extra day as far as our normal preparation was concerned.”