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Zay Jones sees no reason to worry in early stages with Bills

Zay Jones doesn't fret over what most might assume are negative circumstances he has encountered in the embryonic stages of his NFL career.

Take, for instance, that knee injury he suffered during the Buffalo Bills' rookie minicamp last month.

"That's football," Jones says. "Things happen all the time. It could happen to me or anyone."

How about the Bills courting veteran free agent Jeremy Maclin, who would likely be the clear choice for the No. 2 receiver role that Jones has been projected to fill since the Bills made him a second-round draft pick?

"I was excited," Jones says. "I thought he was already here. He’s a great person and a great player. I talked to him for a little bit (during Maclin's recent visit to One Bills Drive). To learn from him and (Sammy Watkins) would be a dream come true for me."



The 22-year-old Jones simply doesn't appear hardwired to do a whole lot of worrying, particularly about what's out of his control. Not surprisingly, his solid grasp of the big picture has made a strong early impression on coach Sean McDermott.

"For a young player to go through what he went through in his first couple of days, the way he handled it mentally, I thought, was phenomenal," McDermott said. "Yes, he was disappointed, more so disappointed in letting – he felt, from an accountability standpoint – his teammates (down). That was hard on him, but credit to him. He got himself right mentally and then got himself right, now, physically with the work he put in."

Jones' knee also seems to be healing nicely, which undoubtedly helps keep him upbeat as the Bills approach their final week of offseason workouts. On Thursday, the day before the Bills wrapped up voluntary OTAs, he had his first full practice since the injury and moved well.

Bills second-round pick Zay Jones sidelined by knee injury

With Watkins doing limited work as he recovers from foot surgery, the Bills haven't been able to get the complete picture of how their offense is projected to look this season. McDermott admits he'd "be lying" if he said he wouldn't "love to see them now together," but that it's more important to wait for them to be "in a good place mentally, physically and spiritually" before that happens.

Although Jones is the healthier of the two and says the knee wasn't "hurt too badly," he's being careful not to push too hard with training camp several weeks away.

"Just being smart," Jones told reporters. "You know, it’s OTAs, just trying to protect my body, just trying to keep me safe. (The knee) felt great (Thursday), though. I felt like I was back to my normal self and I enjoyed it."

Typical of his mindset, he doesn't see the injury as any sort of setback. Never mind the commonly held view that rookies need all of the practice they can get during the offseason and that any time they miss hurts their development.

As far as Jones is concerned, being able to watch was actually a plus.

"I think it benefitted me with the system and learning the plays and just studying my mental game more," he said. "Just being in the film room more, just being able to process everything from the meeting room and now having it translated on to the field. I feel like whether you’re hurt or whether you’re out there, you’ve just got to constantly learn."

Jones has every reason to feel good about the credentials he brings to the professional level: 399 career receptions at East Carolina. At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, he has the size that NFL teams covet in their receivers. He's also athletic and a good route-runner, which makes up for whatever he might lack in raw speed.

There's also that big-picture thing Jones has going for him. Maybe that's why Jones doesn't show any signs of being threatened by the Bills' pursuit of Maclin.

"We’re here to win, everybody is here to win," he said. "The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, a playoff run is the ultimate goal. So, however we can get that done, I’m all in."

Don't mistake that for any sort of concession to Maclin or anyone else for the No. 2 receiver spot or even the No. 1 job, for that matter.

Jones intends to compete. He intends to show he belongs in a prominent role, one that is commensurate with his draft status.

"Of course," he said. "I feel like, with all the receivers that we have in our room, we are natural competitors. I’m a competitor myself. Everybody wants to be great, everybody deems themselves as that number one receiver and you have to have that mindset.

"You can’t be worried about what somebody else is doing. All you can worry about is your job, what the coaches ask of you, and go out and do the best of your ability and whatever happens, happens after that. Whether (Maclin) ends up here, or wherever he is, I wish him the best of luck. And if he is here, that’s just all the better for us."

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