INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The smile was there, but it couldn’t disguise the frustration that lurked just below the surface.
As Art Jones looked ahead to hopefully happier – and healthier – times, the travails of his first two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts were never far off.
“Oh, man, I don’t think I need to describe it,’’ he said Tuesday. “I’ve been through a lot of adversity this offseason.
“Yeah, it has definitely tested me.’’
The Colts are in the midst of the second of four weeks of organized team activities, but Jones, expected to be a force on the defensive line, continues to spend his time with trainers and the team’s rehabilitation staff. He still is on the mend after undergoing surgery last September to repair ligament damage in his left ankle. Jones suffered the injury in the third preseason game at St. Louis and missed the entire season.
That came on the heels of him missing six games in ’14 with a high sprain to his right ankle.
The Colts are optimistic Jones will be ready for the start of training camp, but there are no guarantees.
“We’re hopeful for that,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said. “I’m just waiting to hear from the docs.’’
Added Jones: “They have a timetable for me and I’m sticking to the plan. When the time’s ready to go, I’ll be ready to go.’’
Jones was one of general manager Ryan Grigson’s expensive 2014 free-agent acquisitions: a five-year, $33 million contract with $16 million in guarantees. As much as it rankles him when it’s mentioned, injuries have limited him to nine games and 24 tackles.
To ensure he retained a roster spot in ’16, Jones agreed to have his $4.5 million base salary trimmed to $2.5 million.
Pagano was asked what the last two years have been like.
“Frustrating for him and for all of us,’’ he said.
Has he felt the need to counsel Jones on how to deal with the injury-induced idle time?
“I don’t think anybody needs to mention a word,’’ Pagano said. “I think there’s probably enough (noise) out there. He understands that he’s missed time. Injuries happen and all that stuff.
“It’s not something any of us anticipated.’’
When the Colts lured Jones away from the Baltimore Ravens, they envisioned the 6-3, 320-pounder being a three-down presence. He had the stoutness to be effective against the run and the speed and athleticism to offer inside pressure in passing situations.
“He’s got all the talent in the world. We know that,’’ Pagano said. “Now he’s got to get healthy. He’s got to get back on the field and be the player that he can be, that he knows he can be and we know he can be.’’
The defensive line could represent a position of strength, if Jones and Henry Anderson return to form. Anderson was pressed into action as a rookie last season when Jones went down, and the third-round draft pick made an immediate impact before suffering a season-ending knee injury Nov. 8 against Denver.
Jones and Anderson would buttress a group that includes Kendall Langford, David Parry, Zach Kerr, T.Y. McGill and rookie Hassan Ridgeway.
But Jones will remain a question mark until he returns to the practice field. He admitted veteran teammates, including Robert Mathis and Trent Cole, have helped keep his spirits high during the rehab process.
“A great support system,’’ he said. “Those guys have been awesome. I’m sticking to the plan. My blinders are on. I’m working hard. I can’t wait to go.
“I’m excited to still be wearing the blue and white. Don’t worry about me.’’