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Buff Bears have Jones to thank

Former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Tom Bresnahan used to call him "our secret weapon."

Bresnahan was talking about Rusty Jones, the strength and conditioning coach who served the Bills for 20 seasons, from 1985 to 2004.

Jones now is serving the Chicago Bears, and he is drawing the same kind of accolades in Chicago that he received in Buffalo.

The Bears were one of the most injury-riddled teams in the NFL in 2004. Jones arrived in 2005, and the Bears have been remarkably healthy in winning two straight NFC North division titles.

"He's tremendous," Bears receiver Justin Gage said. "As far as avoiding hamstring pulls and quad problems, he's been great. I've had fewer, and as a team we've had fewer. My first two years we had a ton of injuries. The last two years since Rusty's been here we've been healthy through the season."

Jones was at the forefront of a trend in the NFL by stressing nutrition in addition to strength training, dating to the late 1980s. That has helped make him one of the most respected strength coaches in the league.

"In our society, with obesity being the problem it is, about 80 percent of your problems in percent fat [a high percentage of body fat] come from how you eat, not so much how you exercise," Jones said Tuesday during Media Day at Super Bowl XLI. "If you don't have the nutrition right, the amount of things we can get done with a running program or a lifting program is limited. Sometimes the way to improve the speed of a player is just to get the percent fat off them so they're quicker. So that's why we really push it so much. Nutrition really is the underpinning of everything else we want to get done."

Jones' system is time-tested.

"I remember one time, in 1988, the Friday before the [AFC] Championship Game in Cincinnati," he said. "Our cook thought he was doing us a favor and brought out a big cheese tray. I said, 'Get that out of here!' "

Jones said the fond memories of his days in Buffalo came back during the final seconds of last week's Bears win over New Orleans in the NFC title game.

"As the clock was winding down, it was like a flashback to the AFC Championship Games in Buffalo," he said. "There was a nice little snowfall. The memories came flooding back. That night was really something."

Jones left the Bills after the 2004 season because former coach Mike Mularkey wanted his own man, Brad Roll, in the strength and conditioning job. The Bills now have a Jones disciple, John Allaire, in the position.

The Colts' strength and conditioning coach, Jon Torine, also is a Jones protege. He was an aide to Jones in Buffalo from 1995 to '97 and has been with the Colts since '98.


Tiger Woods was among the many who sent congratulations to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning after last week's win in the AFC final.

"He sent me a text message wishing me luck," Manning said. "I've had a chance to meet him a couple times. It's always nice when you know different athletes who are rooting for you."


Cornerback Nick Harper (ankle), who didn't play in the Colts' win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, is the only starter in danger of missing Sunday's game. On Tuesday he tried to downplay his injury.

"I'm going to tell you like this: It's the Super Bowl. There's no way they can keep me out of this," he said.


Jim McMahon quarterbacked the Bears to their first Super Bowl win 21 years ago. He won't be watching them try for a second title.

"I don't care," McMahon said Tuesday in Chicago. "I haven't watched the game in 10 years."


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