PITTSFORD – Zay Jones has broken his silence.
The Buffalo Bills' second-year wide receiver was added to the active roster Sunday and was on the practice field with his teammates at St. John Fisher College. Afterward, he spoke publicly for the first time since he was arrested in March at an apartment building in Los Angeles.
The bizarre circumstances surrounding that arrest were made public when the website TMZ published a video of Jones having an altercation with his brother, Cayleb. Zay Jones was nude in the video, and can be heard saying he was going to "fight for Jesus." Witnesses told TMZ that Cayleb Jones had to restrain his brother from seriously harming himself.
"I'm grateful," Zay Jones said Sunday. "I could have lost my life, so I'm grateful to just be here. To be on this field, to be with my teammates, to see my family. I don't think there's any other way to describe it other than thankful and grateful."
Jones did not offer much by way of specifics regarding what happened on the night he was arrested.
"I think I would be doing myself a very big disservice if I went back to there," he said. "That moment was very traumatic for me and my family. To rehash that now at this point in time wouldn't be doing me any good. I know you have a job to do, so I'm not trying to ... I'm just trying to look forward. That's where I'm at right now. A lot of positive things are happening in my life and I'm very grateful for it."
Asked about how he got the scars on his knee, Jones chose not to address it.
"It happened a while ago, man," he said. "I respect your question and understand your concern for that. I'm just trying to move forward in the right direction. A lot has gone on with me, but I'm happy to be out here."
Jones wore a red non-contact jersey during practice. He was held out of team drills as he makes his way back from knee surgery in May and shoulder surgery in January.
"It feels really good," he said after practice. "That's where I'm at peace. It's fun to be out there with the guys getting back in the swing of things and just doing what I love."
Coach Sean McDermott acknowledged at the start of training camp that Jones was "behind" after missing spring practice. He started training camp on the non-football injury list, and was frequently seen working out with trainers while the team practiced.
"He’s got to continue to acclimate himself, like he’s been, to get himself up to speed so that we continue to move this thing in the right direction," McDermott said. "He’s worked extremely hard with our training staff to get himself to where he is now. We’re just taking it one day at a time.
"We’ve got our work cut out for us and Zay knows that. It’s not something that can’t be achieved. We’ve got to just continue to work at it and get him up to speed as quickly as we can."
Jones spent his down time trying to master new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's playbook.
"A lot of this game is mental," he said. "There's a mental aspect that goes into the film study, understanding the playbook. I've had a lot of time to take a step back and understand all of it. I would say that I'm progressing in other areas. Obviously I haven't been on the field ... but all that stuff is going to come eventually."
Asked about Jones' mental state, McDermott said the team has "moved forward."
"Like I’ve said before, he’s put a lot of work into this to get himself to where he is now," the coach said.
The Bills could really use a breakout season from Jones. There are few established options behind Kelvin Benjamin and Jeremy Kerley at wide receiver.
"I'm not even thinking about Week 1," Jones said. "This is my first day out here, just to run routes. Obviously that is important, but my next step is going to be tomorrow, seeing how my knee feels tomorrow. ... I'm just going to keep a positive attitude. Keep it moving forward and come out here with a good attitude ready to work."
Jones expressed gratitude for the support he's received from McDermott, General Manager Brandon Beane and all of his teammates.
"Everyone has been in my corner," he said. "This organization brought me here. They know what they have in me. They know the type of person I am, they know the character I uphold and they know the type of player that I am. I don't think they would have drafted me if they didn't think that, so I'm grateful to be here in this organization. I want to see this organization move in the right direction and win ball games."