At­lanta car­ry­ing on with­out WR Jones

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry As­so­ci­ated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan barked out a play, took the snap and zipped a pass to the re­ceiver who played his col­lege ball at Alabama. Nope, it wasn’t Julio Jones. He’s sitting out the team’s vol­un­tary off­sea­son pro­gram, so it was Calvin Ri­d­ley — a first-round draft pick from the Crim­son Tide — who got a chance to shine dur­ing a 90-minute prac­tice.

But, for a team with Su­per Bowl as­pi­ra­tions, it was im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the ab­sence of No. 11. So, where’s Julio? The Fal­cons say it’s no big deal, even as they talk con­stantly about the im­por­tance build­ing ca­ma­raderie and trust in each other dur­ing the vol­un­tary off­sea­son work­outs, a big part of coach Dan Quinn’s much-bal­ly­hooed “Brother­hood.”

Jones said his ab­sence has noth­ing to do with any hard feel­ings to­ward the only team he’s played with in the NFL, but he’s vague about his rea­sons for stay­ing away and it seems fairly ob­vi­ous that he’s try­ing to send a mes­sage about his de­sire for a new con­tract.

While Jones still has three sea­sons re­main­ing on the last deal he signed — a five-year, $71.3 mil­lion ex­ten­sion with $47 mil­lion in guar­an­teed money — his av­er­age salary is now less than at least a half-dozen re­ceivers around the league. Most tellingly, re­cent deals with Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Cleve­land’s Jarvis Landry seemed to set a whole new fi­nan­cial bar for the NFL’s top pass catch­ers, a list that cer­tainly in­cludes Jones.

In ad­di­tion, he surely took note when the Fal­cons made quar­ter­back Matt Ryan the league’s NFL’s first $100 mil­lion man, agree­ing to a new deal that as­sures the quar­ter­back of at least that much in guar­an­teed money and could av­er­age out to as much as $30 mil­lion an­nu­ally over five sea­sons.

/ AP-John Baze­more

Busi­ness went on as usual for Matt Ryan and other Fal­cons play­ers, even with star re­ceiver Julio Jones sitting out the team’s vol­un­tary camp.

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